The rufous hummingbird is widely acknowledged as the most aggressive of the hummingbirds, and this tiny copper-colored bird will readily attack birds many times its size. Yet even with a territorial attitude, this hummingbird is a welcome and beautiful addition to many backyards.
- Bill: Long and black, straight
- Size: 3.75 inches long with 4.5-inch wingspan, stocky build
- Colors: Rust, buff, white, green, black
- Markings: Dimorphic species. Male birds have a rusty back, sides and tail and an iridescent copper or red throat. Shoulders may be slightly green and some males have a green wash on the back. The chest is white and there is often a white streak down the abdomen. Females have a green head and back with a white, slightly speckled throat that may show a reddish central spot. Females’ sides and chest are buff. Wings and eyes of both sexes are dark and the birds have notched tails.
Nectar, sap, insects
Habitat and Migration:
Rufous hummingbirds are the most northerly species of hummingbird in North America and their breeding range extends from the Pacific Northwest in the United States through western Canada and into southern Alaska. The birds prefer deciduous or mixed coniferous forests. In winter, the birds migrate to southern Mexico, though a large number of vagrant birds have been spotted in the eastern and southern United States during their migration period and succeeding winter months. Birds that do complete the migration from southern Alaska to southern Mexico have the longest migration route of any hummingbird species.
Rufous hummingbirds have a variety of buzzing, chattering and chipping vocalizations that are frequently part of their threat displays. Their wings can also make a high-pitched buzz during flight.
Rufous hummingbirds are a solitary species and are very defensive and aggressive near feeders, particularly during migration. The birds will chase and pursue other hummingbirds, large insects and songbirds, and they will even exhibit threat displays at other creatures, including humans. Threat displays include diving, tail fanning and other visual demonstrations.
Rufous hummingbirds are polygamous and will mate with several partners. A female will produce 1-2 broods of 2 eggs each during the breeding season, and she incubates the eggs for 12-14 days. After hatching, the female will care for the nestlings for 19-21 days, until they are able to leave the nest.
Attracting Rufous Hummingbirds:
Rufous hummingbirds are commonly found in backyards planted with red, tubular flowers and other strong nectar-producing flowers. The birds will easily feed from hummingbird feeders, though backyard birders should consider using multiple feeders to minimize the birds’ aggression.
- Allen’s Hummingbird (Selasphorus sasin)
- Broad-Tailed Hummingbird (Selasphorus platycercus)
- Calliope Hummingbird (Stellula calliope)