Description 3 1/2 - 4" Small and
compact. Male has bright rufous upperparts
and flanks and iridescent orange-red throat.
Female green above, with rufous tinge on
rump and flanks, and much rufous in tail.
Habitat Mountain meadows, forest edges;
on migration and in winter frequents gardens
with hummingbird feeding stations.
Diet Rufous Hummingbirds feed on
insects and on nectar from flowers. They
feed heavily on red flowering currant,
salmonberry, honeysuckle, and on
sugar-water at hummingbird feeders.
Nesting In courtship, the male attracts the
female with an aerial display. He dives close
to a female, his feathers making a loud
whining sound near the bottom of an oval
The female commonly builds her nest over
the previous year's nest, which is typically 2
to 10 feet from the ground in a coniferous
tree. Protection from rain and other weather
is a major factor in nest location.
Nests built early in the breeding season are
situated low in conifers, protecting them from
the rain and cold. Nests built later in the
summer are found high in deciduous trees
where they are less likely to overheat.
The female lays 2 white eggs in a
lichen-covered cup of plant down and
spiderweb attached to a horizontal branch.
She incubates them for 15-17 days and
feeds and cares for the young by herself until
they become independent at about 21 days.
Range Breeds from southeastern Alaska,
British Columbia, southwestern Alberta, and
western Montana south to Washington,
Oregon, Idaho, and northern California.
Winters mainly in Mexico and south Texas. In
the spring, they migrate up the Pacific Coast,
reaching as far north as south-central
Alaska, and they are thus the northernmost
Because of their coastal migration, they
arrive on the regional coasts before they are
seen inland. They arrive in Washington from
late February to early March and their arrival
typically coincides with the bloom of red
flowering currant and salmonberry.
In June and July, males leave the breeding
grounds for higher elevations, from which
they will later migrate south. Females and
juveniles leave their areas from late July
through September, with most migrating in
Voice Rufous Hummingbirds do not sing
but make warning chirps in response to
perceived threats. An abrupt, high-pitched
zeee; various thin squealing notes.
Their wings make a whine much like the
sound of a cicada.
Discussion Hummingbirds share
certain traits. The first bird to discover a
source of food defends it.
Rufous Hummingbirds are highly territorial,
defending feeding territories not only while
breeding but also during migration.
Even when satiated, it will perch nearby and
intercept intruders in the air with angry
buzzing. If a female is disturbed when
feeding, she gives a "no trespassing" signal
by fanning and waving her tail.
Females, therefore, have developed distinct
tail patterns, whereas males, facing the
opponent, signal with their brilliant throat
patches, called gorgets.