Our Wild Neighbors

Rufous Hummingbird

Selasphorus rufus

A regular visitor of Alberta and British Columbia flower gardens and feeders

Image of a Rufous Hummingbird, seen in flight, in a side-view with its head to the right.

Description of the animal

  • Height of male: approximately 8.5 centimetres. Height of female: approximately 9 centimetres.
  • Weight of male: nearly 3 grams. Weight of female: nearly 4 grams.
  • Its bill is straight, thin, and black.
  • Male characteristics: apart from its glossy green crown, its plumage is mainly reddish-brown. It has a tiny white spot in the corner of its eye. Its charm resides in its iridescent scarlet throat which contrasts with its white chest.
  • Female characteristics: greenish bronze feathers on its back, top of its head, and under its wings. Reddish-brown zones embellish its flanks and tail.
  • Gosling characteristics: looks a lot like its mother. Young male goslings have hints of reddish-brown on their rump and lower back.

Habitat and needs

  • Normally produces a single brood per season, occasionally two. The female builds its cup-shaped nest among hanging plants, shrubs, or even in large trees. It generally lays two eggs that it broods for approximately sixteen days.
  • Sometimes nests in colonies.
  • Flaps its wings 52 to 62 times per second. The Rufous Hummingbird is the fastest bird of its species.
  • Lives in elevated areas where flowers are common: forests, bushy areas, and prairies.
  • Feeds mainly off of sap, nectar from flowers, and insects.
  • Particularly likes feeders. The Rufous Hummingbird has a very good memory and regularly returns to its feeding stations.
  • Migrates towards Mexico from October to February and returns to nest in Alberta, British Columbia, and even Alaska. A migratory disturbance sometimes leads it towards eastern locations. Thanks to feeders, it can survive. Its tendency to migrate east has been passed down from generation to generation. It is capable of tolerating temperatures around -20 °C. Considering its size, it is a long distance champion.
  • Performs a spectacular nuptial dance. The Rufous Hummingbird completes a series of swooping dives while emitting a stammering sound. Each dive ends at the same location, near the female, but begins at different spots. It dives quickly and ascends more slowly. The female spreads the white tips of its tail feathers to indicate that it accepts the male’s advances.


  • The Rufous Hummingbird visits hummingbird feeders and flower gardens. It fiercely hunts all other hummingbird species that venture into the area.
  • Scientists that study the species are impressed by its sense of direction and long memory given the size of its brain.

Living with them

  • If the presence of the hummingbird in one’s yard is desired:
  • Cultivate mainly red, orange, and pink flowers with a deep corolla. These flowers provide a large quantity of nectar.
  • In the absence of flowers, install hummingbird feeders, preferably glass models since they do not degrade in sunlight. These feeders should be filled with a mixture made up of a quarter cup of sugar for each cup of boiled water. Avoid adding food colouring. During spring and fall months, the mixture should be more concentrated.
  • The water in hummingbird feeders must be changed before it becomes murky. Sweetened water ferments rapidly in warm weather and alcohol can poison hummingbirds.
  • The Rufous Hummingbird does not evade danger, it confronts it. If it is surprised, it uses movement to flash its throat and intimidate intruders. If this happens, it is best to pretend to be scared and move away.
  • Scientists that study hummingbirds take the large amount of data collected by the population as part of hummingbird watch programs very seriously.

Participating cities where this animal has been seen