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Calliope Hummingbird

Selasphorus calliope ORDER: CAPRIMULGIFORMES FAMILY: TROCHILIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

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.

Calls

  • Calls, wings
     
  • Courtesy of Macaulay Library
    © Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Like other hummingbirds they chip while foraging and during encounters with other birds. Male Calliope Hummingbirds emit a high pitched zing that sounds a bit like a sharp knife cutting quickly through the air during their display dives.

Other Sounds

During display dives they make a sputtering bumblebee-like buzz with their tail feathers. They also buzz their wing feathers while flying and when doing a shuttle display for females.

Search the Macaulay Library online archive for more sounds and videos

Backyard Tips

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.

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.

You Might Also Like

Feeding Hummingbirds, All About Birds, April 20, 2009.

Not All Sweetness And Light: The Real Diet Of Hummingbirds, All About Birds, Living Bird, Autumn 2010.

Western hummingbirds in the East–set your feeders out!!, eBird, November 8, 2012.

When do you see more hummingbirds at your feeders?, Project FeederWatch, June 6, 2014.

Here's what to feed your summer bird feeder visitors, All About Birds, July 11, 2014.

Annual Changes In Hummingbird Migration Revealed By Birders’ Sightings, All About Birds, March 25, 2015.

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