Species Profile: Rufous Hummingbird

Ah, the Rufous Hummingbird; a common – yet seemingly rare – bird that captures our attention and makes us stare in awe. Their pattern of flight is mysterious, moving in a way that one would imagine a futuristic spaceship to do (or, for the conspiracy theorists, in a way that the current UFOs move). Given their status as such an interesting animal, lets expand our knowledge about them and how they interact with wetlands! Importantly, lets thank Flickr member DragonSpeed for snapping this incredible shot of one and inspiring this blog post! 

The Rufous Hummingbird has a range from Southern Alaska down to Central America. Breeding is done in open areas, yards, parks, and forests up to treeline. During migration, they will reach meadows as high as 12,000 feet where nectar-rich flowers bloom. In the winter, the birds migrate to Mexico just as we would all like to do, where they inhabit oak-pine forests and shrubbery. 

While many assume the bird feasts principally on nectar, their diet also relies heavily on insects. If you are attempting to identify a Rufous Hummingbird, think orange. Males are bright orange on the back and belly with a vivid red throat. Females are less vibrant, sporting a mainly green body with rufous patches in the tail and a spot of orange in the throat. In British Columbia, you might be able to spot one at a local wetland; these ecosystems provide an abundance of insects and nectar-producing flowers for hummingbirds to live on.  Examples of the wetland plants beneficial to hummingbirds are salmonberries, penstemons, lilies, fireweeds, ribes, and heaths. If you reside in Metro Vancouver, several places offer excellent opportunities for seeing some Rufous Hummingbirds. Hiking to the peak of Hollyburn Mountain shows promise in the late summer, when blackberries are abundant. If you’d like them around your home, considering purchasing a hummingbird feeder, where a nectar solution can be easily made. Simply boil 1 cup white table sugar with 4 parts water for 2 minutes, and let cool. Once set up, expect to see some coming by for lunch; however, hummingbirds tend to be solitary and are very territorial, so you will likely never see a small group of them. In fact, Rufous Hummingbirds are often described as being “feisty” and will aggressively defend their territory.

While this information is great and excellent to know, it’s always nice to close out on some interesting facts you can share with friends. Who knows, maybe they will help you win your next trivia game.

Interesting facts:

– The Rufous Hummingbird makes one of the longest migratory journeys of any bird in the world relative to its body size. It’s 6,300 kilometre migration is equivalent to nearly 80,000,000 body lengths (they are approximately 3 inches long). 

– The wingbeat frequency of Rufous Hummingbirds has been recorded at 52–62 wingbeats per second, allowing it to “hover” in place.

Thanks again to DragonSpeed for this Photo of the Month, and stay tuned for our June edition!

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