Family: (Trochilidae) Hummingbirds
Preferred Habitat: Woods and backyard gardens.
Seasonal Occurrence: Uncommon mid-October through March.
Profile by Aidan Healey: Hummingbirds are generally known for being quick and energetic fliers, but the Rufous Hummingbird just may be the zippiest of them all. The Rufous Hummingbird is a tiny hummingbird that is very agile in flight, even when compared to other hummingbirds. Despite their small size, Rufous Hummingbirds are particularly territorial, and they are known to aggressively defend their food sources by chasing away other visitors. Their territorial antics can be enjoyable to watch, especially if a Rufous Hummingbird stakes its claim to your hummingbird feeders!
Male Rufous Hummingbirds are the only hummingbirds found in the United States with an entirely orange-colored back. They have a patch of iridescent feathers called a gorget on their throat, which usually appears bright red. Since most hummingbirds appear green at first glance, this bright and shiny coloration makes male Rufous Hummingbirds easy to spot as they zip by from one place to the next. Female Rufous Hummingbirds can be more difficult to identify since they are not quite as alarmingly bright. They are greenish above and buffy white below, but they show characteristic orange coloring in their tail feathers.
The Rufous Hummingbird is commonly found across the western United States, reaching areas of southern Alaska during the summer breeding season. Though they primarily winter in Mexico, some individuals can be reliably found during fall and winter along the Gulf Coast as far east as the Florida panhandle. Rufous Hummingbirds tend to stay close to the Pacific Coast during spring migration, but during fall many will instead stray eastward before heading south, making a large, circuitous journey around the western United States. This fall migration pattern often results in small numbers of Rufous Hummingbirds travelling further east than usual, making them the most common of the “western” hummingbirds in eastern North America.
Notes: Male Rufous Hummingbirds are bright orange on the back and belly with a vivid iridescent orange-red throat. Females are green above with rufous-washed flanks, rufous patches in the green tail, and often a spot of orange in the throat. The Rufuous is the most aggressive hummingbird and is extremely territorial. Both males and females will chatter loudly while flashing their throat feathers and flaring their tails to chase away other hummingbirds.
Rufous hummingbirds normally begin arriving here in late August. They make one of the longest migratory journeys of any bird in the world, as measured by body size. At just over 3 inches long, its roughly 3,900-mile movement (one-way) from Alaska to Mexico is equivalent to 78,470,000 body lengths.