Costa's Hummingbird

(Calypte costae)

Costa's hummingbird

The hottest, most arid deserts of Arizona, California, Nevada, extreme South Utah and South into Mexico are home to the 3-1/2 Costa hummingbird

Here they have little competition with other species of hummers for food and nesting spots.

These jewels of the desert are less dependent on water than other hummers and is therefore able to withstand desert conditions.

They are however, well adapted to urban districts and take advantage of our exotic bloomers.

Both the crown and the gorget of the male blaze with a vibrant violet purple. The gorget extends outward on each side and downward along the bird's flanks.

Under some conditions the gorget may look black, greenish, magenta, or purple.

Male Costa

The back is a metallic green and the under surface is white.

On female Costa's hummingbird coloring is more gray and green is more somber.

The bill is somewhat shorter than in other species of North American hummingbirds.

A high pitched "tik" often reveals the presence of a territorial bird guarding his little corner of earth.

To hold their territories, male Costa's employ a series of impressive dives, accompanied by a shrill, prolonged vocalization.

A smaller, more intimate side by side flight with a female is also part of the ritual.

Winter rains bring abundant flowers to the desert in February and March, creating the ideal habitat for breeding.

In the coastal regions of southern California, breeding and nesting for Costa's hummingbirds can start as early as December.

But the remainder of the range the usual nest time is March or April.

Nest sites for Costa's can be in trees, shrubs, cacti, or weeds.

Females are not shy about building around human habitation.

The nests are loosely constructed from a wide range of materials, more so than other species of hummingbirds. Plant down, strips of bark, feathers, pieces of paper, leaves, bud scale and lichen are held together with spider silk.

Costa's hummingbirds are not strongly migratory and many are year round residents. Often after the young are independent, they will depart the deserts.

Some will migrate eastward reaching the Texas and Louisiana coast.

Similar species:

The adult male Lucifer Hummingbird is similar in plumage to the adult male Costa's, but is easily separated in the narrow zone of overlap between the two species by its strongly decurved bill, green crown and deeply forked tail.

The female Lucifer is strongly buffy below and has a decurved bill and forked tail. The female Costa's is similar to the female and immature Anna's, but typically is smaller, with a cleaner throat and whiter underparts.

Archilochus hummingbird females are also similar but tend to have streaked throats. Female Costa's are separable also by subtleties of tail pattern and call notes.

Fast Facts

Length: 3 to 3.50 inches

Long, straight, thin bill

Bright green back and crown

White underparts with greenish flanks

Adult male Costa's:

Iridescent purple crown and gorget, with long pointed extension far down neck

Entirely dark tail

Female/Immature Costa's:

White chin and underparts

Dark tail with white tips on outer tail feathers

Migration Status: Neotropical migrant

Breeding Habitat: Successional-scrub

Clutch Size: 2

Length of Incubation: 15-18 days

Days to Fledge: 20-23

Number of Broods: 1





Range Map

Costa range map

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Other Species Profiles

Migration North

Hummingbirds Mating

Migration South

Feeding Hummingbirds

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