Rufous Hummingbird

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Image:Rufuous Hummingbird.JPG

Common Name: Rufous Hummingbird
Scientific Name: Selasphorus rufus

Size: 1.8-3.5 inches (7-9 cm)

Habitat: North America; Western North America (east of the Rockies) from Alaska to Central America. Summers: Alaska, British Columbia and Washington state. Winters: Southern Mexico and Central America.

Rufous Hummingbirds typically breed in open or shrubby areas, forest openings, yards, parks, and sometimes in forests, thickets, swamps, and meadows from sea level to about 6,000 feet. During their migration, Rufous Hummingbirds can be found in mountain meadows up to 12,600 feet elevation. In Mexico, wintering Rufous Hummingbirds live in oak, pine, and juniper woods (at 7,500 to 10,000 feet elevation), shrubby areas, and thorn forests.

Status: Least Concern. Global Population: 6,500,000 mature individuals. The annual Breeding Bird Survey indicated a slow decline in Rufous Hummingbird numbers in Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia (1-2 percent per year from 1980 to 2004)

Diet: Flower nectar (primarily from colorful, tubular flowers including columbine, scarlet gilia, penstemon, Indian paintbrush, mints, lilies, fireweeds, larkspurs, currants, and heaths), also feeds on insects.

Breeding: Females begin nesting within 3 days of arrival on their breeding grounds. They put their nests up to about 30 feet high in coniferous or deciduous trees such as Sitka spruce, western red cedar, Douglas-fir, pines, hemlock, birch, maples, thimbleberry, and occasionally ferns or vines. Nests are hidden in drooping branches, sometimes with several nests (up to 20) in the space of just a few yards.

The female builds the nest alone using soft plant down held together with spider web. She decorates (or camouflages) the outside with lichen, moss, and bark. Finished nests are about 2 inches across on the outside, with an inner cup width of about an inch. Nests may be reused the following year, not necessarily by the same individual.

Cool Facts: The feistiest hummingbird in North America. The brilliant orange male and the green-and-orange female Rufous Hummingbird are relentless attackers at flowers and feeders, going after (if not always defeating) even the large hummingbirds of the Southwest, which can be double their weight. They’ve even been seen chasing chipmunks away from their nests.

The Rufous Hummingbird makes one of the longest migratory journeys of any bird in the world, as measured by body size. At just over 3 inches long, its roughly 3,900-mile movement (one-way) from Alaska to Mexico is equivalent to 78,470,000 body lengths. In comparison, the 13-inch-long Arctic Tern's one-way flight of about 11,185 mi is only 51,430,000 body lengths. (AAB).

During their long migrations, Rufous Hummingbirds make a clockwise circuit of western North America each year. They move up the Pacific Coast in late winter and spring, reaching Washington and British Columbia by May. As early as July they may start south again, traveling down the chain of the Rocky Mountains. People first realized this pattern after examining detailed field notes and specimens, noting the birds’ characteristic dates of arrival on each part of the circuit. The Rufous Hummingbird breeds as far north as southeastern Alaska – the northernmost breeding range of any hummingbird in the world.

The Rufous Hummingbird has an excellent memory for location, no doubt helping it find flowers from day to day, or even year to year. Some birds have been seen returning from migration and investigating where a feeder had been the previous year, even though it had since been moved.


Included in Songbird ReMix Hummingbirds of North America

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