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 Rufous Hummingbirds

This is a male Rufous Hummingbird, hoving.

If the sun
shimmering red! to green! to gold!
on the glistening gorget
of the male rufous hummingbird
makes MY heart gush warm,
how much more thrilled
is the fluttering female
when he winks
his plummy array at her?
  --Cat Freshwater,
             Manzanita singer/songwriter

    Rufous Hummingbirds are migratory hummingbirds which breed from the Pacific Northwest clear up into Alaska.  They winter in the Yucatan down in Mexico and this means that they make a tremendous migration every year.  Some Rufous Hummers have been found to fly as much as 12,000 miles during a round-trip migration.  Compare that to a Canada Goose, which most of us think of as a migratory bird:  many of them only migrate a few hundred to a couple of thousand miles in a year.  So who is really the migratory bird?  Some people have the mistaken belief that hummingbirds migrate on the backs of geese, but I think they could teach geese a thing or two about long-distance migration!

   (If you are seeing hummingbirds between October and February they are probably Anna's hummingbirds.  Please read about them on the Hummingbirds of Winter page.)

    In their northward spring migration they usually show up in our part of the north Oregon coast during late February.  This is about when the manzanita trees begin to bloom and they are a favorite of the Rufous Hummers in our area.  The majority of them pass through most of Oregon during March.  This seems very early for such a small bird, but they are very robust and seem to do just fine.  If you live in other parts of the west, I'd love to hear when you first sighted a Rufous Hummingbird this year.  Mike Patterson, a birder and science teacher from Astoria, is conducting a Citizen Science project to try and learn the relationship between early Rufous Hummingbirds and early blooming native plants.  If you want to help go here, read, download the forms, and fill them out with your counts.

    These little birds are incredible fliers.  Like all hummingbirds, Rufous Hummingbirds can hover or fly in any direction swiftly and with ease, but the Rufous Hummer excels in its flying abilities even above other hummingbirds.  They are feisty birds, constantly battling each other for possession of a feeder or flower patch.  Their flying skill allows them to easily drive off Anna's Hummingbirds more than twice their size.  

Male Rufous Hummingbird in flight.  Photo by Vic Shuman.  Click to see a larger image.
Photo by Vic Shuman of Ramona, CA.
Click to see a larger image.

    The shiny feathers on a male hummingbird's throat is called their gorget.  The gorget on a Rufous hummingbird is a beautiful reddish bronze color.  If jewels this beautiful existed, they would probably be worth more than diamonds and rubies.  These feathers are iridescent and the birds are able to aim a beam of light from them.  That's why the gorget looks black until they notice you and then you see the color.  Rufous Hummers don't always flee from danger like other birds.  Instead, they will often confront you, "flashing" their gorget at you as if to challenge you.  I have met a Rufous Hummingbird on a trail who was defending his territory and just hovered in the middle of the trail chittering away at me and flashing his gorget.  They are amazing birds.

    Feeding hummingbirds is a very easy and enjoyable pastime.  Hummingbirds readily find and use feeders and their food is very easy and cheap to make.

    Rufous Hummingbirds will fight each other for possession of a feeder.  If you see this behavior don't get too upset about it, it is just their nature.  Sometimes two or three of them will set up a rotational feeding schedule but rarely will you see two or more of them on the feeder at the same time.

    I hope this has been enjoyable and informative.

     Read about feeding hummingbirds

     Then order a REALLY GOOD feeder.

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