A beautiful gleam of iridescent color in the driest desert areas, the Costa's hummingbird is also one of the smallest hummingbirds to visit North America.
- Bill: Straight, black
- Size: 3.5 inches long with 4.5-inch wingspan, short tail
- Colors: Black, white, green, gray, violet, iridescent
- Markings: Dimorphic species. Males have gray-green upperparts with an iridescent violet crown and gorget extending to the sides of the throat. Lower throat and upper chest are white. Flanks have a gray or green wash, and the tail has black outer feathers. Females have a gray-green crown, nape and upperparts that may show minor iridescence. A gray or green wash is common on the flanks. Underparts are white and light specks may show on the throat, even developing into a partial gorget in older females. Auriculars are light gray, and the outer tail feathers have white tips. Species is monotypic.
Habitat and Migration:
These hummingbirds are desert specialists and are found in very arid regions where there is some minor brush or scrub cover. They are found year-round in extreme southern California, southwestern Arizona, northwestern Mexico and Baja, and in summer the breeding range extends further north in California and as far inland as southwestern Utah and southern Nevada. In winter, these neotropical migrants head for western and southern Mexico.
Like most hummingbirds, the Costa's hummingbird is not exceptionally vocal, but they do use a high, piercing, undulating whistle call, and their wings create a low buzzing in flight.
These are solitary birds that generally keep to low or mid-level heights in the brush habitats they prefer, taking advantage of what little shade is offered. A male will flair his gorget as an aggressive gesture if threatened. At night when desert temperatures plummet, these birds enter a state of torpor to conserve energy until morning. They are also known to migrate as early as mid-summer to leave the hottest areas in favor of more shaded forests in their non-breeding range.
Costa's hummingbirds nest as early as February or March when flowers are abundant and the desert heat has not yet advanced to its highest levels. These are polygamous birds, and the female is responsible to incubate the nest for 15-18 days. After hatching, she will also care for the altricial young for an additional 20-24 days until they are ready to leave the nest. Only one brood is raised per mated pair annually, and while 2 eggs is most common, 3 egg broods are not unheard of.
Attracting Costa's Hummingbirds:
These hummingbirds are threatened by continued development of desert areas but will readily come to hummingbird feeders and backyards with desert-friendly landscaping that includes native flowers.
- Black-Chinned Hummingbird (Archilochus alexandri)
- Anna's Hummingbird (Calypte anna)
- Lucifer Hummingbird (Calothorax lucifer)