Family Hummingbirds (Trochilidae)

Near Threatened

Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus)

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Taxonomy

French: Colibri roux German: Rotrücken-Zimtelfe Spanish: Colibrí rufo
Taxonomy:

Trochilus rufus

J. F. Gmelin

, 1788,

Nootka Sound, Vancouver Island, Canada

.

Closely related to S. sasin (which see). Monotypic.

Distribution:

Coastal SE Alaska S through SW Canada (British Columbia, W Alberta) to NW USA (Washington, N Idaho and extreme W Montana to N California). Winters in S California, throughout Mexico (except NC) and along Gulf coast of USA.

Descriptive notes

c. 8·5 cm; 2·9–3·9 g. Male has medium-short, straight black bill; crown bronze or bronze-green, remaining upperparts rufous, occasionally with a few green feathers on the back; throat iridescent scarlet-bronze to golden green, remaining underparts white on breast changing to rufous on lower belly; tail rounded, rufous above with black tips on central two pairs of rectrices, outer 3 pairs with black outer webs and dark greyish tips. Female is bronze-green on head and back; throat feathers often tipped with iridescent bronze, sometimes resulting in a large iridescent patch, rest of underparts including chin are dull white; central rectrices metallic green, outer rectrices rufous, subterminally green and black, tipped white. Immature resembles adult female.

Drawing by Toni Llobet
Descriptive notes:

c. 8·5 cm; 2·9–3·9 g. Male has medium-short, straight black bill; crown bronze or bronze-green, remaining upperparts rufous, occasionally with a few green feathers on the back; throat iridescent scarlet-bronze to golden green, remaining underparts white on breast changing to rufous on lower belly; tail rounded, rufous above with black tips on central two pairs of rectrices, outer 3 pairs with black outer webs and dark greyish tips. Female is bronze-green on head and back; throat feathers often tipped with iridescent bronze, sometimes resulting in a large iridescent patch, rest of underparts including chin are dull white; central rectrices metallic green, outer rectrices rufous, subterminally green and black, tipped white. Immature resembles adult female.

Drawing by Toni Llobet
Descriptive notes:

c. 8·5 cm; 2·9–3·9 g. Male has medium-short, straight black bill; crown bronze or bronze-green, remaining upperparts rufous, occasionally with a few green feathers on the back; throat iridescent scarlet-bronze to golden green, remaining underparts white on breast changing to rufous on lower belly; tail rounded, rufous above with black tips on central two pairs of rectrices, outer 3 pairs with black outer webs and dark greyish tips. Female is bronze-green on head and back; throat feathers often tipped with iridescent bronze, sometimes resulting in a large iridescent patch, rest of underparts including chin are dull white; central rectrices metallic green, outer rectrices rufous, subterminally green and black, tipped white. Immature resembles adult female.

Voice

Apparently no song is used in courtship or territory defence. Display-flight describes an oval or J-shape, during which wings make a high-pitched, trilled buzzing sound and, at the foot of the dive, the tail-feathers produce a loud stuttering, Gallinago-like, bleating noise “ch-ch-ch-ch-chrrr”. Also during normal flight, the rattling wing noise (c. 8–10 kHz) is heard. Calls include dull “chup” notes, often doubled, or in short chatters. Chase calls typically 2–3 buzzy reeling notes followed by twittering calls “zrreee-zzreee-zrreee-chupity-chup”.

Habitat

Found typically in cool climates; in breeding range primarily in second growth forests; also frequent clearings and brushy areas where food flowers grow. Winter range is characterized by a wide variety of habitats, ranging from thorn forest and scrubland to mixed pine-oak-juniper forest. During migration frequents disturbed areas where food plants generally abundant.

Food and feeding

Nectar from several plant species, and small arthropods. Flowers visited for nectar include Agave, Aquilegia, Arbutus, Castilleja, Cleome, Epilobium, Linaria, Opuntia, Ribes, Rubus and Scrophularia. Might also feed on sap from species such as alder (Alnus) and willow (Salix) through holes made by woodpeckers. Arthropods taken are primarily insects such as dipteran flies (Anisopodidae, Chironomidae) and Hemiptera (Aleyrodidae), and small spiders.

Breeding

Season likely timed with flowering of food plants. Nests are constructed in a wide variety of shrubs and trees; small nesting colonies have been reported. Nest is a cup lined with soft downy plant material, exterior covered with lichen, moss, or bark glued in place with spider web. Clutch size two white eggs; incubation 15–17 days, by female; fledging at 20–21 days. Female occasionally double brooded, starting second clutch while young from first attempt still in nest#R.

Movements

Migratory, wintering mainly in Mexico, in central highlands; small numbers seen regularly in S Texas and along Gulf coast of USA; rare in S California and also in Baja California, mainly in N. Southbound migration, probably begins Jun–Jul, follows two major flyways either side of Great Basin Desert, the W route following the Cascade and Coast Ranges and Sierra Nevada, while E route is along the Rocky Mts; arrives on wintering grounds Aug/Sept. Northbound return migration takes place further W, along Pacific coast; birds begin arriving in Washington late Feb and Mar. Timing of migration depends on flower availability. Increasing number of verified sightings of individuals in late autumn (or winter) in SE USA (North Carolina, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama and Florida), and even NE states (e.g. New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island). The only hummingbird to have been recorded in the Palearctic, with spring records from Chukotski Peninsula, Russia#R.

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened. Currently considered Near Threatened. CITES II. Earlier concern over a decline in numbers during migration have recently translated into a more general disquiet, with the species now believed to be undergoing a moderately rapid decline (estimated at 60% between 1970 and 2014), although the threats causing this have so far proven difficult to ascertain. Overall numbers are nevertheless still estimated at 19,000,000 mature individuals. In USA, artificial feeders maintain unusually large populations that exceed available natural food sources. The species is susceptible to natural or unnatural disturbances, such as forest fires, because its habitat is often restricted to the higher elevations of isolated mountain ranges. In the future, habitat destruction could prove to be a major concern throughout its range.

Recommended citation

Powers, D.R., Boesman, P. & Kirwan, G.M. (2018). Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from https://www.hbw.com/node/55674 on 17 December 2018).