Rufous Hummingbird

Selasphorus rufus

Howard B. Eskin
  • TROCHILIDAE
  • Hummingbirds
  • Apodiformes
  • Zumbador rufo
  • Colibri roux
Introduction

The Rufous Hummingbird is a very small, almost all cinnamon-colored bird with a red throat, found wherever flowers are near, from dense forests to sunny gardens in southern Alaska to northern California and Mexico. One of Audubon's Common Birds in Decline, the population of Rufous Hummingbirds has dropped 60% since 1967.

Fun Fact

The Rufous Hummingbird has incredible memory and will avoid flowers that it has just depleted and return to those that are partially full.

Bird Sounds
© Lang Elliot, Nature Sound Studio
Vocalization

Frequent "chip" notes and chattering sounds.

Appearance Description

These are very small birds. The males are almost all cinnamon-colored with a red throat; the females have a mostly green back and mostly white belly, with only a few hints of cinnamon or red.

Range Map
Kenn Kaufman
Range Distribution

Breeds from southern Alaska to northern California, but males start fall migration as early as the 4th of July, so can be seen throughout the West during the summer. Winters primarily in Mexico, except for the steadily increasing population along the United States coast along the Gulf of Mexico.

Habitat

This species goes wherever flowers are found, from dense forests to sunny gardens.

Feeding

Feeds on floral nectar, small insects in midair, and sap with any insects caught in it. Exhibits very territorial behavior and will aggressively defend flower patches. To prepare for their long migration, they alternate bouts of feeding with a state of torpor (a prolonged period of regulated hypothermia) and almost double their body fat.

Reproduction

Nests are very well hidden in shrubs or drooping limbs and are often constructed very close to one another in colonies of up to 20. Downy plant material is used to line the nest, and lichens, moss, and spider webbing often decorate it. Clutch size is almost always 2 eggs.

Migration
  • 5.0 million
  • 5.0 million
  • 5.0 million now, 12 million 40 years ago
  • 60 percent since 1967
Population Status Trends
Conservation Issues
  • Threats: Both the breeding and wintering ranges are subject to extensive logging. The spring migration route (through the Pacific Coast areas of California, Oregon, and Washington) is subject to extensive human development.

  • Outlook: The Rufous Hummingbird can survive in suburban areas and may learn to adapt even better to them, but decline of natural habitats may mean lower population numbers in the future.
What You Can Do
  • Protect the Boreal Forest
    Promote conservation of the Canadian boreal forest by supporting the Boreal Songbird Initiative that works to save Canadian boreal habitat for all birds, specifically by fighting inappropriate logging, mining, and drilling and by promoting the designation of protected areas. In the breeding range, plant trees as well as flowers to provide protected nest sites.

  • Maintain Ranchlands
    Support wildlife-friendly management of lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management and other federal agencies in the western states, including good regulations for grazing, fire, mining, and energy development. Support research and management actions against non-native, invasive plants; these actions help ranchers and wildlife.

  • Monitor Feeders
    If you see dead or diseased birds on or near your feeders, don’t put out food for two weeks to allow birds to disperse, and clean feeders before using them again. Offer hummingbird flowers and sugar-water feeders (change sugar-water weekly or more often in hot weather).
More Information
Natural History References
Conservation Status References

Healy, S. and W.A. Calder (2006). Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus). The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole and F. Gill, Eds.). Ithaca: Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. Retrieved from The Birds of North America Online database: http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/BNA/account/Rufous_Hummingbird/

Kaufman, Kenn. Guía de campo a las aves de Norteamérica. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2005.