The male Rufous Hummingbird is about 8.5 centimetres long and weighs close to 3 grams. It has a straight, slender, black beak. Its face, back, sides, rump, tail, abdomen and under-tail coverts are reddish-brown in colour.

It sports a shiny green cap on the top of its head. Sometimes its back is mottled with green and its wings are dark. The tiny white speck at the edge of its eyes and its scarlet throat contrast with its black eyes and white breast. The tips of the feathers in its forked tail are dark. The males are much more vocal than the females.
The male Rufous Hummingbird is about 8.5 centimetres long and weighs close to 3 grams. It has a straight, slender, black beak. Its face, back, sides, rump, tail, abdomen and under-tail coverts are reddish-brown in colour.

It sports a shiny green cap on the top of its head. Sometimes its back is mottled with green and its wings are dark. The tiny white speck at the edge of its eyes and its scarlet throat contrast with its black eyes and white breast. The tips of the feathers in its forked tail are dark. The males are much more vocal than the females.

© Musée de la nature et des sciences de Sherbrooke 2007. All rights reserved.

Rufous Hummingbird (male)

Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus), male

Credit: Chuck Rogers

© Chuck Rogers


The female is slightly larger than the male and a bit less colourful. It is about 9 cm long and weighs close to 4 grams. The plumage on its back, crown and wing tops is bronze-green. Reddish-brown zones brighten its sides and tail. Sometimes, tiny red and green marks are visible on the throat. Immature males resemble adult females, with more reddish-brown on the rump and lower back.
The female is slightly larger than the male and a bit less colourful. It is about 9 cm long and weighs close to 4 grams. The plumage on its back, crown and wing tops is bronze-green. Reddish-brown zones brighten its sides and tail. Sometimes, tiny red and green marks are visible on the throat. Immature males resemble adult females, with more reddish-brown on the rump and lower back.

© Musée de la nature et des sciences de Sherbrooke 2007. All rights reserved.

Rufous Hummingbird (female)

Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus), female)

Credit: Chuck Rogers

© Chuck Rogers


Female Rufous Hummingbirds build their nests in trailing plants, bushes or even good-sized trees. The nest resembles an open cup. The female generally has one clutch of eggs per year, but sometimes two. The two eggs are incubated for about 16 days. The Rufous Hummingbird sometimes nests in colonies. Up to 20 nests have been found in the same sector.
Female Rufous Hummingbirds build their nests in trailing plants, bushes or even good-sized trees. The nest resembles an open cup. The female generally has one clutch of eggs per year, but sometimes two. The two eggs are incubated for about 16 days. The Rufous Hummingbird sometimes nests in colonies. Up to 20 nests have been found in the same sector.

© Musée de la nature et des sciences de Sherbrooke 2007. All rights reserved.

Rufous Hummingbird

Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus)

Credit: Jeff Fennell

© Jeff Fennell


The Rufous Hummingbird lives aloft where there are flowers, in forests, bushy areas and prairies. It feeds mainly on nectar, sap and insects. It is often a regular at feeders. It is very territorial.
The Rufous Hummingbird lives aloft where there are flowers, in forests, bushy areas and prairies. It feeds mainly on nectar, sap and insects. It is often a regular at feeders. It is very territorial.

© Musée de la nature et des sciences de Sherbrooke 2007. All rights reserved.

Rufous Hummingbird

Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus)

Credit: Frank Leung

© Frank Leung


The Rufous hummingbird is the species that lives the farthest north. It is often sighted in open terrain, high-altitude grasslands, on the edge of forests and in the shrublands of western North America, between the southern part of Alaska and California. It nests in British Columbia in the Queen Charlotte Islands, the Alaskan border and in Southwestern Alberta. A good number of them migrate through the Rocky Mountains and neighbouring lowlands. The Rufous hummingbird will sometimes make the long journey to Southwestern Yukon and Saskatchewan. Around October, they migrate to Mexico travelling more than 4000 km; a tremendous achievement given their size.
The Rufous hummingbird is the species that lives the farthest north. It is often sighted in open terrain, high-altitude grasslands, on the edge of forests and in the shrublands of western North America, between the southern part of Alaska and California. It nests in British Columbia in the Queen Charlotte Islands, the Alaskan border and in Southwestern Alberta. A good number of them migrate through the Rocky Mountains and neighbouring lowlands. The Rufous hummingbird will sometimes make the long journey to Southwestern Yukon and Saskatchewan. Around October, they migrate to Mexico travelling more than 4000 km; a tremendous achievement given their size.

© Musée de la nature et des sciences de Sherbrooke 2007. All rights reserved.

Rufous Hummingbird Range

Rufous Hummingbird Range

Data provided by NatureServe in collaboration with Robert Ridgely, James Zook,
The Nature Conservancy - Migratory Bird Program, Conservation International - CABS, World Wildlife Fund - US, and Environment Canada - WILDSPACE.

© Natureserve


A migratory glitch leads some Rufous Hummingbirds to migrate east rather than south. Generally speaking, individual birds that migrate to the east by mistake die. However, a number of them have survived and have transmitted this tendency to migrate east to their progeny. This trend is the result of an improved survival rate due to the presence of feeders. If food and shelter are available, Rufous Hummingbirds are astonishingly robust; they are capable of tolerating temperatures of nearly -20°C.

A migratory glitch leads some Rufous Hummingbirds to migrate east rather than south. Generally speaking, individual birds that migrate to the east by mistake die. However, a number of them have survived and have transmitted this tendency to migrate east to their progeny. This trend is the result of an improved survival rate due to the presence of feeders. If food and shelter are available, Rufous Hummingbirds are astonishingly robust; they are capable of tolerating temperatures of nearly -20°C.


© Musée de la nature et des sciences de Sherbrooke 2007. All rights reserved.

Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus) in Eastern township

Credit: Serge Beaudette

© Serge Beaudette


The courtship of the male Rufous Hummingbird is spectacular. The bird does a series of dives while emitting what seem to be stuttering sounds. The dives always end at the same spot, close to the female, but begin in different locations. The plunges are rapid, but the ascents are slow. The female spreads the white extremities of her tail feathers to indicate that she accepts his advances.
The courtship of the male Rufous Hummingbird is spectacular. The bird does a series of dives while emitting what seem to be stuttering sounds. The dives always end at the same spot, close to the female, but begin in different locations. The plunges are rapid, but the ascents are slow. The female spreads the white extremities of her tail feathers to indicate that she accepts his advances.

© Musée de la nature et des sciences de Sherbrooke 2007. All rights reserved.

Rufous Hummingbird

Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus)

Credit: Frank Leung

© Frank Leung


The Rufous Hummingbird likes to take a bath. As is the case for all birds, it has a gland at the base of its tail that secretes an oil for cleaning and waterproofing its feathers. It may also be seen, as here, with its feathers puffed up, sun bathing.
The Rufous Hummingbird likes to take a bath. As is the case for all birds, it has a gland at the base of its tail that secretes an oil for cleaning and waterproofing its feathers. It may also be seen, as here, with its feathers puffed up, sun bathing.

© Musée de la nature et des sciences de Sherbrooke 2007. All rights reserved.

Rufous Hummingbird

Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus)

Credit: Serge Beaudette

© Serge Beaudette


Learning Objectives

The learner will:
  • summarize information on Rufous Hummingbird (nest, habitat, range, approximate size)

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