Rufous Hummingbird – Shining Jewel Of The Sky

by Larry Jordan on March 10, 2008


Jedi Hummers
Jedi Hummers photo by Lisa Williams

I have been waiting a long time to post this photo by Lisa. Any of you who are familiar with hummingbirds know how tough it must have been to capture this photograph! This is a photo of a Rufous Hummingbird defending his feeder from a Black-chinned Hummingbird looking for an easy meal. You can see all of Lisa’s photos at Arizona Birder.

Well, spring has arrived in northern California. We saw our first Rufous Hummingbird at the feeder yesterday. The male Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus) will aggressively defend feeding locations in his territory as you can see from the above photo.

The Rufous Hummingbird also has the longest migration route of all the hummers traveling well over 3000 miles from Mexico and possibly Panama north to Alaska. As a matter of fact the Rufous Hummingbird breeds farther north than any other species of hummingbird in the world.

Rufous Hummingbird at You

Male Rufous Comin’ At Ya photo by Walter Ammann

This beautiful male bird has a rufous face, upperparts, flanks and tail and a striking iridescent orange-red gorget (pronounced gawr-jit) that contrasts with his bright white breast. The female of the species has green upperparts, white underparts, some iridescent orange feathers in the center of her throat, and a dark tail with white tips and a rufous base.

The Rufous Hummingbird breeds in open areas and forest edges in western North America from Alaska to California. The female will build a nest at the point where two branches form a V in a protected location in a shrub or conifer and the male may mate with several females.

These tiny jewels of the sky, like their counterparts, feed on nectar from flowers using a long, extendable tongue and catch insects on the wing. They are active during the day and become torpid at night, being able to tolerate temperatures well below freezing. See my post here on Hummingbirds In A State Of Torpor

Jerry Galino April 9, 2008 at 2:06 pm

Good site I “Stumbledupon” it today and gave it a stumble for you.. looking forward to seeing what else you have..later

Ellen April 9, 2008 at 7:36 pm

We recently started feeding a pair of Rufous Hummingbirds, however, in the past week the male has disappeared even though the female still shows up regularly. Is this normal? I’m new to the area (97116) and new to hummingbirds but am following carefully instructions for feeding.

Larry April 21, 2008 at 7:50 pm

Hello Ellen,

I’m sorry it took me so long to reply to your question. It is a very busy time of year for cavity nesting monitors! Has the male returned? Or do you have several more hummers at your feeder now? Males are very territorial and have a tendency to drive other males off. If you start to get many hummers, and you want to have many, it is a good idea to put up several feeders. As they get used to each other feeding, the males will allow other males to feed at their station. It is impossible for the poor busy male to drive off everyone and they usually “get acquainted” with the other birds.

There are several possibilities of what may have happened with your male if he hasn’t returned. If you have neighbors with feeders up, he may have gone elsewhere. He may have been driven off or faced some uncertain fate. He may have kept heading North as the Rufous are the species of hummer that migrates the farthest north of all hummers, all the way into Alaska! Actually, in proportion to its size, the Rufous Hummingbird makes the longest migration of any bird on the world!

My guess is by now you may have many hummers at your feeder and are enjoying their incredible acrobatic displays. I’m sure there are many more headed your way. Please update me as to what is going on in up there in Forest Grove with the hummers. I love to hear people’s stories.

Until then,

Happy Birding!

Sandy Shelley May 14, 2008 at 5:13 am

Hello….I live in Northcentral Ohio and have been putting a hummingbird feeder out for my little ‘friends’ for over 10 years. Last year I counted over 14 birds at the feeder. This year, I have 2 birds. Is there any known reason why these little ‘guys’ are becoming more and more scarce?

Larry May 18, 2008 at 5:28 am

Hello Sandy,

There can be any number of reasons for differing numbers of hummers at your feeders any particular time or year. There are many factors that effect the hummingbird migration and food supply. It can be something as simple as a neighbor putting out hummingbird feeders that were not there before, giving them another place to refuel.

According to the hummingbird migration map for 2008, you should have been seeing hummers around the first two weeks of April. You can get lots of information at a great hummingbird site:

Happy Birding!

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