Living Bird Magazine
Calliope HummingbirdSelasphorus calliope
- ORDER: Caprimulgiformes
- FAMILY: Trochilidae
Magenta rays burst from the throats of the male Calliope Hummingbird as it dances and hovers, performing U-shaped display dives for females. During these displays he makes a sputtering buzz with tail feathers and gives a sharp zinging call. This is the smallest bird in the United States, yet this tiny hummingbird breeds in meadows and open forests high in chilly Northwestern mountains, and travels more than 5,000 miles each year to pine-oak forests in Mexico and back again.More ID Info
Find This Bird
One way to find a Calliope Hummingbird is to find its favorite perch on the breeding grounds. Most often their favorite perch is a bare branch sticking up out of a willow or alder. They habitually return to these perches, so look at the tops of these shrubs and you just might see a tiny bird perched atop. Another approach in summer is to listen for its zing as it dives in a U-shaped display flight in meadows and forest openings. Outside of the breeding season, their elliptical migration route means that in spring you are more likely to find them in coastal areas, while in the fall, they are more common in interior locations at higher elevations along the Rocky Mountains.
- Colibrí Calíope (Spanish)
- Colibri calliope (French)
Putting up a sugar water feeder may give you an opportunity to watch a Calliope Hummingbird up close. Use a ratio of one-part table sugar dissolved in four parts water, and don’t use food coloring. Learn more about feeding hummingbirds.
Adding flowers to your yard is another way to attract hummingbirds while also adding beauty to your yard. Learn more about creating a hummingbird garden at Habitat Network.
- Cool Facts
- The Calliope Hummingbird is the smallest bird in the United States. It weighs about one-third as much as the smallest North American warblers and about the same as a ping pong ball.
- This tiny hummingbird is the smallest long-distance migrant in the world. Calliope Hummingbirds travel around 5,000 miles each year in a big oval from the breeding to wintering grounds. They migrate north along the Pacific Coast in the spring, but return to the wintering grounds in Mexico via an inland route along the Rocky Mountains.
- 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.