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Calliope Hummingbird


IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

The Calliope Hummingbird is the smallest bird in the United States. Despite its small stature, it breeds in the chilly mountain environments of the northwestern United States. The male’s magenta burst of rays at its throat make it a standout from other hummingbirds. Tiny but tough, these birds are the smallest long-distance avian migrant in the world, spending winters in Mexico and a few small pockets of the southern U.S.

At a GlanceHelp

3.5 in
9 cm
4.3 in
11 cm
0.1–0.1 oz
2.3–3.4 g
0.1–0.1 oz
2.6–3.2 g
Other Names
  • Colibri calliope (French)
  • Chupamirto rafaguitas, Colibrí gorgirrayado (Spanish)

Cool Facts

  • The Calliope Hummingbird is the smallest bird in the United States. Its mass is about one-third that of the smallest North American warblers. It is also the smallest long-distance avian migrant in the world. Eggs may be up to 20 percent of a female’s body weight.
  • Calliope Hummingbird is named after Calliope, the muse of eloquence and epic poetry, who inspired Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey.
  • Despite their tiny size, these territorial birds may chase birds as big as Red-tailed Hawks during the breeding season.
  • While hovering, these birds‘ metabolic rates increase to more than 16 times resting level.
  • The oldest recorded Calliope Hummingbird was a female, and at least 8 years, 1 month old, when she was recaptured and rereleased during banding operations in Idaho in 2014. She had been banded in the same state in 2007.


Open Woodland

This little bird generally inhabits the cool environments of open montane forests, mountain meadows, and willow and alder thickets, often near running streams. They typically live between 4,000 and 11,000 feet, but may breed at lower elevations, down to 600 feet. During migration and winter months, Calliope Hummingbirds are found in chaparral, lowland brushy areas, deserts and semidesert regions. These birds’ elliptical migration routes mean that in spring they are more likely to be found in coastal areas, and in fall, they are in more interior locations at higher elevations. Birds establish breeding territories in or near open areas with suitable lookout posts. There appears to be fidelity to breeding sites year after year.



Nectar and small insects. These birds get nectar from cup-shaped flowers or isolated tubular flowers not sought by larger hummingbirds. They forage aerially for small insects by “hawking” — perching on a branch and flying out to catch an insect in midair. Calliope Hummingbirds also feed regularly at sapwells created by sapsuckers, probably taking both insects and sap.


Nesting Facts
Clutch Size
2 eggs
Number of Broods
1-2 broods
Egg Length
0.4–0.5 in
1–1.3 cm
Egg Width
0.3–0.4 in
0.7–1 cm
Incubation Period
15–16 days
Nestling Period
18–21 days
Egg Description
Tiny, smooth, white.
Condition at Hatching
Naked and helpless.
Nest Description

Nests are built and tended by females, and are found in coniferous trees, usually sheltered under an overhanging branch.

Nest Placement


Nests are a hemispherical cup, often built on an old, dead pine cone base. They are lined and well insulated with soft, downy plant materials. The exterior is made up of lichens, moss, or bark fragments, bound together with strands of spider web. On the outside, nests are 1.5-1.8 inches wide and just over an inch high. Calliope Hummingbirds may reuse nests and nests may be higher if a second is rebuilt upon a first. The inside of the nest has a diameter of 0.8 inches and is 0.6 inches deep.



Males defend feeding and breeding territories against other hummingbirds. Sometimes they defer to larger hummingbirds, but they also chase larger birds such as Red-tailed Hawks, warblers, and American Robins. Males mate with more than one female per season and do not help with nesting activities. When courting, males hover in front of and slightly above a female. Females sometimes respond by taking flight and the pair fly in circles, sometimes joining bills.


status via IUCN

Least Concern

Calliope Hummingbird populations appear to have experienced small declines between 1966 and 2015, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 2 million with 74% breeding in the U.S., 25% in Canada, and 100% spending at least part of the year in Mexico. The species rates a 12 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score. It is a U.S.–Canada Stewardship species. Calliope Hummingbird is not on the 2016 State of North America's Birds Watch List. Recent winter records in the southeastern United States suggest possible range expansion of this species, perhaps associated with environmental changes caused by humans.


Range Map Help

Calliope Hummingbird Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings


Calliope Hummingbirds are the smallest long-distance avian migrant in the world, some travelling up to 5,600 miles annually. Spring and fall migrations differ in routes and elevation. In the spring they migrate north via the Pacific Coast, a distance of over 3,000 miles. In the fall, they head south via the Rocky Mountains and cover a distance of about 2,400 miles. Males migrate ahead of females, arriving north about a month earlier, and heading back down south while the females are still caring for chicks. Females migrate before juveniles, meaning that a bird’s first migration is without parental accompaniment. Overwintering is becoming more common in southern areas of the U.S.

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