|Species: Rufous Hummingbird
The fiery color of
this small hummingbird matches its temperament. It is a common fall
migrant in the Rocky Mountains, with a pugnacious nature that makes
it a less-than-welcome guest at some feeding stations. The Rufous
breeds farther north than any other hummingbird and travels
phenomenal distances each year between its summer and winter homes.
It is an important pollinator in a the cool cloudy climate of the
Pacific Northwest, where cold-blooded insect pollinators are at a
disadvantage. This was likely the first hummingbird encountered by
humans who crossed the Bering land bridge approximately 20,000 years
A small hummingbird (3.5-4 inches) with medium-short all black bill
and extensive rufous in the plumage.
Back varies from solid rufous or rufous with scattered green
spangles (typical) to more than half green; crown bright green.
Underparts creamy white with rufous ‘vest.’ Gorget brilliant scarlet
to orange, appearing golden or even yellow-green from some angles.
Cheeks and eyebrows dull rufous, lores dusky. Black-tipped rufous
tail is long, extending past wingtips. Pointed tail feathers become
progressively narrower from R1 to R5, which resembles a steak knife.
R2 distinctly notched on inner web near tip.
Bright green above, white below strongly washed with rufous on
sides, flanks, and undertail coverts, extending onto edges of rump.
Face and sides of gorget washed rufous. Gorget creamy white to
ivory, lightly to heavily spangled with green to bronze
(concentrated along sides); iridescent red-orange to coppery
feathering in center of gorget varies from a few small spangles to
dense ragged-edge triangle or diamond. Rounded tail extends past
wingtips, shows extensive rufous in R2-5; R2 usually shows shallow
indentation near tip, narrow green band separating rufous base from
black tip. R5 narrow.
Male: Similar to adult female but usually with gorget more heavily
marked, often with large mirrorlike gorget feathers in patches
throughout gorget area or concentrated in lower center of throat. R2
rufous and black, without green.
Ressembles adult female but with fewer and smaller gorget markings
(center of throat may be unmarked white), broader outer tail
feathers with less rufous, small white tip on R2.
Similar Species: Allen’s Hummingbird, typical adult male
Allen’s has no notch at tip of R2, narrower tail feathers overall,
with R5 extremely narrow and stiletto-like. Adult female and
immature Rufous are generally indistinguishable from Allen’s in the
field but may be separated by close examination of tail
characteristics in hand or in photos. Broad-tailed Hummingbird,
female and immature males are larger with slightly longer bill,
grayish face, broader tail feathers with less rufous and more
extensive green, paler rufous wash on underparts; no rufous in R1,
on rump or uppertail coverts. Calliope Hummingbird have shorter
bill, much shorter tail with small amount of rufous, mostly on edges
of feathers; metallic gorget feathers of immature male rose to wine
red, elongate and narrow at corners of gorget. Outer primaries
Highly aggressive and territorial, even in migration. Regularly
drives larger hummingbirds from nectar sources. Visits a variety of
plants with short to medium-length flowers, including columbines,
fireweed, skyrocket, bee-balm, Indian paintbrushes, larkspurs,
honeysuckles, red currant, salmonberry, Rocky Mountain bee-plant.
Takes sap from wells drilled by sapsuckers. Early arrivals on
breeding grounds feed mainly on insects until flowers begin to
bloom. Dive display of males is oval or U-shaped, accompanied by a
series of dit-dit-dit-deeer dropping in pitch, followed by popping
sounds probably made by tail feathers.
Breeds in forest openings, edges, and brushy second growth in
conifer and mixed conifer-hardwod forests, including coastal
temperate rain forest. Winters in a variety of habitats in western
and southern Mexico, from scrubby second growth and thorn forest to
high oak and pine-oak forests. Northern wintering birds prefer
gardens with feeders, winter-blooming flowers, and dense vegetation
No subspecies are
described. Its closest relative is Allen’s Hummingbird, so close
that some authors have suggested lumping them into a single species.
Adult males are
highly variable in amount of green iridescence on upper back, from
almost immaculate rufous to a scattering of green feathers to
entirely green with rufous rump and uppertail coverts.
Females tend to acquire more iridescence in gorget with each molt.
Gorgets of older females may be almost entirely orange-red.
Molt occurs December to February on the wintering grounds. Sometimes
molt completes during migration.
Status: More information needed.
have been noted over parts of breeding range, for reasons still
unclear. Extensive logging within both breeding and wintering ranges
would be expected to increase nectar availability, opening sunny
clearings that support favourite flowers; this does not seem to have
had positive effects on populations. Feeders supplement natural food
supplies but expose birds to dangers such as windows, cats and
pesticides. Short nesting season and perilous migration may limit
ability of populations to rebound from declines due to habitat
destruction. Currently on Partners in Flight WatchList.
Williamson, Sheri L. Peterson Field Guides – Hummingbirds of North
America. New York: Houghton
Common in relatively high numbers at Colony Farms, Rufous
Hummingbird capture rate (2010-2012; standardized as birds
captured per 100 net hours) occurs from April - August. It
peaks in July corresponding to juvenile dispersal. This
hummingbird migrates long distances south for the winter as
indicated by zero capture rates from October - March.