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.

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Emily Hannemann
Emily Hannemann is an associate digital editor for Birds & Blooms. She has a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in magazine writing from the University of Missouri - Columbia. When she’s not writing and editing, you’ll find her swimming, running, or hiking. She knows blue jays are controversial, but she loves them anyway.