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Do any female hummingbirds have red throats?

Hummingbirds are known for their colorful, iridescent plumage. Male hummingbirds in particular often have brightly colored feathers on their throats or crowns that they use to attract females. However, female hummingbirds tend to be more muted in coloration. This raises the question – do any female hummingbirds have red throats like the males?

An Overview of Hummingbird Throat Colors

There are over 300 different species of hummingbirds worldwide. The majority exhibit sexual dimorphism, meaning the males and females have different color patterns. Here is a quick overview of common hummingbird throat colors:

  • Males – Vibrant red, orange, blue, violet, or green throats
  • Females – White, grey, green, or sometimes red throats but less vibrant than males

The most well-known example is the male Ruby-throated Hummingbird which has an iridescent scarlet throat. Females have white throats with small black speckles.

Female Hummingbirds with Red Throats

After surveying all the hummingbird species, there are a few examples of females with red throat feathers, though they tend to be less vibrant or extensive than males:

  • Rufous Hummingbird – females have some red spotting on the throat
  • Allen’s Hummingbird – females have a small red throat patch
  • Anna’s Hummingbird – females have minimal reddish throat streaking
  • Costa’s Hummingbird – females have a dull reddish wash on throat

The most dramatic example is the Black-chinned Hummingbird. Females have a bright ruby red throat patch that almost matches the males, though their colors tend to be slightly duller.

Geographic Variation in Female Throat Color

Within a single hummingbird species, the females’ throat color can vary across different geographic subspecies. Here are some examples:

Species Subspecies Female Throat Color
Broad-tailed Hummingbird S. p. lucifer White
Broad-tailed Hummingbird S. p. latirostris Speckled red
Broad-billed Hummingbird C. l. margaritae White
Broad-billed Hummingbird C. l. doubledayi Diffuse red

This shows that even within a species, the females’ throat colors can range from white to fully red-colored depending on the geographic race.

Why Do Female Hummingbirds Have Duller Colors?

There are a few leading hypotheses for why male hummingbirds have such bright, showy plumage compared to females:

  1. Sexual selection – Males evolved bright colors through female mate choice. Females prefer colorful males.
  2. Species recognition – Vibrant male plumage helps identify competing species.
  3. Camouflage – Duller female feathers provide better camouflage while nesting.

The most supported theory is that sexual selection led to males developing bright colors to attract mates. Females likely prefer colorful males because it indicates fitness, good genes, ability to find food, and other desirable qualities.

A Few Rare Exceptions

In most hummingbird species, the females are relatively drab while the males are brilliantly colored. However, in a very few special cases, the females have the more decorative throats:

  • The Mangrove Hummingbird has females with gorget feathers while the males are plain.
  • Female White-tailed Emeralds have iridescent green throat feathers unlike the males.
  • Female Vervain Hummingbirds display forked tail streamers that are absent in males.

These rare exceptions may be explained by reversed sexual selection or a lack of need for female camouflage in some ecological contexts.

Key Takeaways

  • In most hummingbird species, females have white or lightly speckled throats.
  • A few species like Black-chinned have females with vibrant red throats almost equal to males.
  • Geographic subspecies can vary in female throat color within a single species.
  • Sexual selection for bright male plumage is likely the reason for color differences.
  • In exceptional cases, female hummingbirds are the more decoratively colored sex.


While male hummingbirds are famous for their brightly colored gorgets, female throat colors are more subtle in most species. However, examples like Rufous, Allen’s, and especially Black-chinned Hummingbirds demonstrate that some female hummingbirds also evolved vibrant red throat plumage. Overall though, sexual selection pressure on males led to far more diversity and intensity of coloration in males across the majority of hummingbird species.

When studying hummingbird identification or distribution, it is important to note geographic variation in female throat colors can exist between subspecies. In some species like Broad-tailed Hummingbirds, females range from plain white throats to heavily speckled red throats across subspecies.

The reasons behind hummingbirds’ sexual dichromatism are still not fully resolved, but female camouflage during nesting along with female preference for colorful males likely played key roles. This led male hummingbirds to monopolize the spectacular gorgets in most but not all species. Those rare exceptions where females exhibit the showy feathers provide interesting examples of reversed sexual selection or reduced camouflage needs.