The Rufous Hummingbird
a Profile

Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus)

The Rufous Hummingbird is the most widely distributed and most abundant hummingbird in the West.

Its breeding range extends from southern Alaska and the Yukon territory, South through Oregon and the northern portions of California and as far West as southwestern Alberta and western Montana.

Hummers that nest in the far North undertake a journey of up to 3,000 miles along the Pacific coast from the southern parts of Mexico where most of them winter.

Traveling this great distance takes time and starts in February and extents into May with several lay overs that last a week or more to fatten up before they move on.

Rich rusty brown feathers and a flaming gorget set the 3.25 to 4 inch hummingbird apart from all other hummers.

The female Rufous are more subdued with a green back common with other hummers.

Both sexes are feisty and will challenge interlopers with a chp, chp,chp sound.

Male Rufous

Males assert their territorial claims right after their mid-February to April arrival on the breeding grounds by means of a "O" or "J" shaped display.

The male Rufous not only will guard nesting territories, but also feeding grounds they establish during migrational pauses.

Several females in succession are attracted and visit the display area and the male does his best to impress each one.

Female Rufous does her part as she constructs a nest of plant down held together with spider silk. The outside is adorned with lichens, moss and bark fragments.

Like all hummingbirds, Rufous Hummingbirds clutch is usually 2 eggs the size of a navy bean.

Breeding continues until late spring.

In the southern parts of the breeding range, nesting gets under way in April. In the extreme North nesting generally doesn't occur until July.

The typical nesting habitat are woodlands dominated by conifers that has openings where wildflowers grow.

Fall migration lasts over an extended period of time, some birds may head South as early as June and extend to October.

Following the Rocky Mountains is a favorite path as they take advantage of wildflowers in season and our feeders.

Again Rufous Hummingbirds will stop over for a week or more to fatten up before heading out once again.

Scientists are puzzled as to why more and more Rufous Hummers migrate to the South and southeast United States. Winter records exist for nearly all eastern states.

These birds are called vagrants, but can they really be vagrants if it happens more often?

Rufous Male

Similar species:

Adult males can be confused only with Allen's Hummingbird. Rufous-backed males are certainly Rufous Hummingbirds, but care should be taken as some Rufous have variable amounts of green on the back and crown.

Females and immatures are easily identified as a Selasphorus by the rufous in the tail. Female and immature Broad-Tailed Hummingbirds have less rufous on the inner tail feathers, whitish, not rusty undertail coverts and more blue-green backs, as well as being larger with different calls.

Female and immature Calliope Hummingbirds are smaller with shorter bills and less rusty backs. Rufous and Allen's females and immatures are inseparable in the field.

Here are some fast tips.

Length: 3.5 inches

Long, straight, thin bill

Small hummingbird

Adult male:

Rufous face, back, flanks, rump, and tail Occasionally variants occur with variably greenish backs and crowns

Bright orange-red gorget

White breast


Green back and crown

White underparts

White throat variably marked with dark streaks (immatures) or central group of red spots (adult females) Rufous wash on flanks.

Immature males similar to adult female but central tail feathers like adult male (rufous with dark tips).

Dark tail with rufous at the bases of the retrices, and white tips on the outer three retrices.

Migration Status: Neotropical migrant

Breeding Habitat: Woodland

Clutch Size: 2

Length of Incubation: 12-14? days

Days to Fledge: 20

Number of Broods: 1, occasionally 2





Range Map

Range  Map

Return to top of page for Rufous Hummingbird

Tips on Feeding Hummingbirds

Hummingbird Flowers

Build Your Own Hummingbird Gardens

What is a Good Hummer Feeder

Migration North

Hummers Mating

Migration South

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