BIRD OF THE WEEK: 6/13/2014
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Selasphorus rufus
POPULATION: 11 million
HABITAT: Breeds in western U.S. and Canadian forests; winters mostly in southern Mexico
The feisty red-and-orange Rufous is the most aggressive of the North American hummingbirds, despite being one of the smallest. This three-inch bird often attacks birds many times its size in defense of its territory and reigns supreme at feeders and choice flower patches.
Rufous Hummingbirds emit a variety of high-pitched, buzzing, chattering, and chipping sounds. Their wings also make a high-pitched buzz during flight. Like other hummingbirds, including the Calliope and Ruby-throated, male Rufous hummers court females with elaborate flight displays, including J-shaped dives and figure eights.
This is the most northerly breeding species of hummingbird in North America. It also makes one of the longest migratory journeys of any bird in the world as measured by body size, traveling up to several thousand miles to wintering grounds in Mexican Western thornscrub. There, it shares habitat with species such as Varied Bunting and Black-capped Vireo.
In recent years, the Rufous has become the most common overwintering hummingbird in the southeastern United States, particularly along the Gulf Coast.
The population of Rufous Hummingbird is falling close to two percent each year as habitats are lost and other threats along its long migration take their toll. This species is benefiting from ABC's efforts to "bring back the birds," with our focus on conserving geographically linked habitats both north and south.