Living Bird Magazine
Rufous HummingbirdSelasphorus rufus
- ORDER: Caprimulgiformes
- FAMILY: Trochilidae
One of 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.More ID Info
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.
- Colibrí Rufo (Spanish)
- Colibri roux (French)
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.
This species often comes to hummingbird feeders. 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 out more about what this bird likes to eat and what feeder is best by using the Project FeederWatch Common Feeder Birds bird list.
- Cool Facts
- The Rufous Hummingbird is a common visitor to hummingbird feeders. It is extremely territorial at all times of year, attacking any visiting hummingbird, including much larger species. They’ve been seen chasing chipmunks away from their nests.
- The Rufous Hummingbird makes one of the longest migratory journeys of any bird in the world, as measured by body size. At just over 3 inches long, its roughly 3,900-mile movement (one-way) from Alaska to Mexico is equivalent to 78,470,000 body lengths. In comparison, the 13-inch-long Arctic Tern's one-way flight of about 11,185 mi is only 51,430,000 body lengths. (AAB)
- During their long migrations, Rufous Hummingbirds make a clockwise circuit of western North America each year. They move up the Pacific Coast in late winter and spring, reaching Washington and British Columbia by May. As early as July they may start south again, traveling down the chain of the Rocky Mountains. People first realized this pattern after examining detailed field notes and specimens, noting the birds’ characteristic dates of arrival on each part of the circuit.
- The Rufous Hummingbird has an excellent memory for location, no doubt helping it find flowers from day to day, or even year to year. Some birds have been seen returning from migration and investigating where a feeder had been the previous year, even though it had since been moved.
- The Rufous Hummingbird breeds as far north as southeastern Alaska – the northernmost breeding range of any hummingbird in the world. Of the western hummingbirds that occasionally show up in the east, the Rufous Hummingbird is the most frequent.
- Rufous Hummingbirds, like most other hummingbirds, beat their wings extremely fast to be able to hover in place. The wingbeat frequency of Rufous Hummingbirds has been recorded at 52–62 wingbeats per second.
- The Rufous Hummingbird is not a colonially nesting species; however, there have been reports from Washington state that have 20 or more Rufous Hummingbird nests only a few yards apart in the same tree. (From the BNA)
- Hummingbirds are hard to catch, but there are records of Rufous Hummingbirds being caught by a large flycatcher (Brown-crested Flycatcher) and by a frog.
- The oldest recorded Rufous Hummingbird was a female, and at least 8 years 11 months old when she was recaught and rereleased during banding operations in British Columbia.