Meet the Magnificent Rivoli’s Hummingbird

The Rivoli's hummingbird is a striking, shimmery flier. Learn how to identify these gorgeous birds and why their name was changed... twice!

What Does a Rivoli’s Hummingbird Look Like?

Rivoli's hummingbird, rare birdsmlharing/Getty Images
The colors on a male Rivoli’s hummingbird truly shine

A Rivoli’s hummingbird has that classic hummingbird shimmer, but they’re even more dazzling than many of the other types of hummingbirds in the United States. A teal green gorget and purplish feathers on the crowns of their heads are a surefire way to identify a male. The feathers on his back might appear black, but take a closer look—they’re an iridescent dark green.

Rivoli's Hummingbird femaleStan Tekiela Author / Naturalist / Wildlife Photographer/Getty Images
Female Rivoli’s hummingbird

Telling a female Rivoli’s apart from other species is a bit trickier. At first glance, she bears a close resemblance to several other juvenile or female hummingbirds. Take note of the second, defined white stripe branching from her bill to the area just below her eye and the green feathers on her back as keys to correctly identify her.

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Range: Where Do Rivoli’s Hummingbirds Live?

Rivoli's Hummingbird maleStan Tekiela Author / Naturalist / Wildlife Photographer/Getty Images
To spot a Rivoli’s hummingbird, visit the southwestern states

If you’re determined to spot a Rivoli’s, you’ll need to head south. These gem-colored little fliers only enter the United States during breeding season. They buzz over to mountainous areas in the Southwest, and specifically in lower Arizona and New Mexico. You might find one on the far west side of Texas during breeding season as well, but you’d have to be pretty lucky—those sightings are uncommon.

If you’re really, really serious about spotting a Rivoli’s, you might want to head to Mexico. There, these delightful birds have a year-round range.

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Rivoli’s Hummingbird Name Changes

arizona hummingbirdsCourtesy Gary Botello
Rivoli’s hummingbird at Beatty’s Guest Ranch in Arizona

If you found the Lucifer hummingbird‘s name wacky, get ready for the weirdness surrounding the Rivoli’s. (Psst—here’s how birds get their names). Originally, the Rivoli’s hummingbird was named to honor the second duke of Rivoli. In the ‘80s, the Rivoli’s hummingbird became the magnificent hummingbird (and to be fair, they are pretty magnificent looking).

But then, in 2017, the change was reversed: certain magnificent hummingbirds again became Rivoli’s, while others were newly dubbed Talamanca hummingbirds. The easiest way to tell whether you’re looking at a Rivoli’s or a Talamanca is to pull out a map. Rivoli’s call the United States through Nicaragua home, while Talamanca hummingbirds live in in Panama and Costa Rica.

A Special Rivoli’s Sighting

300966897 1 Deborah Lockett Bnb Hpc 2022Courtesy Deborah Lockett

Birds & Blooms reader Deborah Lockett submitted this story about a heartwarming encounter with a Rivoli’s hummingbird.

“Having lived in Tucson for many years, I’ve had the privilege of seeing many hummingbirds zip through my backyard. But there was one hummingbird I knew would require a trip close to the southern border to see: the Rivoli’s. Many sightings of Rivoli’s were spotted at Beatty’s Guest Ranch in Hereford, Arizona. I thought it was worth a try.

My friend Shelbie and I headed to the ranch and positioned ourselves on a trail with benches to wait. After sitting for just a few minutes, there they were: a male and female Rivoli’s! There was no mistaking them since they were much larger than all the other hummers. Just enough sunlight filtered in through the trees to show their rich colors. The male (above) finally perched for a few seconds on a nearby branch that was in clear view.

Even though I’ve since seen the Rivoli’s again at other locations, nothing beats the first time seeing a new bird, especially one that beautiful.”

Next, find out everything you need to know about hummingbird nests.

Emily Hannemann
Emily Hannemann is an associate editor for Birds & Blooms digital. Throughout her years with the publication, she has written multiple articles for print as well as digital, all covering birding and gardening. In her role as associate editor, she is responsible for creating and editing articles on the subject of birding and gardening, as well as putting together Birds & Blooms daily digital newsletter. Graduating from the University of Missouri - Columbia with a master's degree in magazine journalism and undergraduate degrees in journalism and English, she has more than eight years of experience in the magazine, newspaper, and book industries.