Rufous Hummingbirds typically breed in open or shrubby areas, forest openings, yards, and parks, and sometimes in forests, thickets, swamps, and meadows from sea level to about 6,000 feet. During their migration, look for Rufous Hummingbirds 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.Back to top
Rufous Hummingbirds feed primarily on nectar from colorful, tubular flowers including columbine, scarlet gilia, penstemon, Indian paintbrush, mints, lilies, fireweeds, larkspurs, currants, and heaths. Rufous Hummingbirds get protein and fat from eating insects, particularly gnats, midges, and flies taken from the air, and aphids taken from plants.Back to top
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.
|Clutch Size:||2-3 eggs|
|Number of Broods:||1 brood|
|Egg Length:||0.5 in (1.3 cm)|
|Egg Width:||0.3 in (0.8 cm)|
|Incubation Period:||15-17 days|
|Nestling Period:||15-19 days|
|Egg Description:||Tiny, white (about a half-inch long).|
|Condition at Hatching:||Naked apart from sparse gray down along the back, eyes closed, clumsy.|
Rufous Hummingbirds hover at flowers to sip nectar or fly from one to another in fast, straight lines. When not feeding they perch nearby, then launch themselves after any other hummingbirds that appear. All ages and both sexes are aggressive, even during brief 1-2 week stopovers in the course of migration, at which times they may chase off resident Broad-tailed, Broad-billed, Violet-crowned, and Black-chinned hummingbirds. Males may chase off females from feeders even during the breeding season. You may see Rufous Hummingbirds picking insects out of the air, out of spider webs, or from leaves or bark. When agitated, they fan their tails and chip, and males flash their iridescent throat patches. Males perform a steep oval or J-shaped courtship flight when a female enters their breeding territory. If the female perches, the male may switch to low, horizontal figure-8s.Back to top
Rufous Hummingbird populations declined across their range by approximately 2% per year resulting in a cumulative decline of about 67% between 1966 and 2019, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 22 million and rates them 14 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score. Rufous Hummingbirds are included on the Yellow Watch List for birds most at risk of extinction without significant conservation actions to reverse declines and reduce threats.Back to top
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