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Rufous Hummingbird

Selasphorus rufus ORDER: APODIFORMES FAMILY: TROCHILIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

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. Rufous Hummingbirds are wide-ranging, and breed farther north than any other hummingbird. Look for them in spring in California, summer in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska, and fall in the Rocky Mountains as they make their annual circuit of the West.

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Calls

  • Calls, wings
      No sound? Click here
  • Chase call: zeee, zeee, zeee-chuppity-chuppity-chup and chip notes
      No sound? Click here
  • Calls made at reflection in window
      No sound? Click here
  • Courtesy of Macaulay Library
    © Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Male and female Rufous Hummingbirds make a fast series of warning chip notes at intruding birds. Males performing a dive display for a female make a chu-chu-chu-chu sound at the bottom of their dive.

Other

Rufous Hummingbirds make more of a hum with their wings than many hummingbird species (except the broad-tailed). Males make a high-pitched trill as wind passes over specially shaped wing feathers. Both sexes make a lower hum or whine as they beat their wings. They can control the pitch and loudness of this sound by changing how fast they move their wings.

Search the Macaulay Library online archive for more sounds and videos

Backyard Tips

Rufous Hummingbirds may take up residence (at least temporarily) in your garden if you grow hummingbird flowers or put out feeders. But beware! They may make life difficult for any other hummingbird species that visit your yard. If you live on their migration route, visiting Rufous Hummingbirds are likely to move on after just a week or two.

Make sugar water mixtures with about one-quarter cup of sugar per cup of water. Food coloring is unnecessary; table sugar is the best choice. Change the water before it grows cloudy or discolored and remember that during hot weather, sugar water ferments rapidly to produce toxic alcohol.

Find This Bird

Backyards and flower-filled parks are good places to find Rufous Hummingbirds while they’re around, but these birds spend much of the year on the move. Check out the maps and charts from eBird to find out when Rufous Hummingbirds are reported in your area. You can select any location to display.

Get Involved

Wildflowers that Keep Out Bees: A study shows why bees can’t raid some hummingbird flowers

Keep track of the Rufous Hummingbirds at your feeder with Project FeederWatch

Look for Rufous Hummingbirds nests and contribute valuable data about them through NestWatch

Western Hummingbirds in the East: How to attract, identify, and report late-season vagrants to eBird

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All About Birds blog, Flyways for Flyweights: Small Birds Capitalize on Weather Patterns During Epic Migrations, May 15, 2014.

All About Birds blog, Here’s What to Feed Your Summer Bird Feeder Visitors, July 11, 2014.

All About Birds blog, These 8 Unexpected Migration Routes Give You Reason to Go Birding in Summer, July 16, 2014.

All About Birds blog, Summertime in the United States of Hummingbirds, July 29, 2014.