Spring is in the air and with it the gorgeous array of birds that begin migrating to their summer homes. One of the tiniest birds celebrating the warming weather in Oregon is the rufous hummingbird.
These beautifully-colored hummingbirds usually make their arrival in the Beaver State sometime in February and are generally gone by late October.
According to the Department of Wildlife, they are very common and easy to attract with simple feeders set up in the yard.
The birds are capable of traveling great distances. Interestingly, this avian delight “nests farther north than any other hummingbird.” One rufous hummingbird was found in the Northern Pacific Ocean after being tagged near the Southern Atlantic Ocean!
However, the ones found in Oregon usually make the trek up the Pacific Coast. In relation to size, their journeys are among the longest in the world of birds and comes to an incredible 4000 miles in each direction.
What does the rufous hummingbird eat?
While nectar and feeders put out by humans are likely the first things to come to mind, they are not the only food necessary for these beautiful little birds to have good health. They love a variety of insects, including flies and midges, according to the birdwatching academy. Rather than feasting a couple of times each day, the rufous hummingbird prefers to have smaller meals throughout the day.
The preferred habitat of the rufous hummingbird
All living creatures have preferred living conditions, especially during migratory flight. For the rufous hummingbird, they prefer elevations above 6,000 ft. during breeding season and can be found twice as high in the winter. While they mate in more open fields, the bird prefers to live in forested areas.
The birds hatch from their eggs after two weeks of incubation. Then, they spend the next three weeks or so in the nest until they can take care of themselves.
They make the annual migration trips as part of their natural avian instincts. When it is time to breed, the males, which have a reputation for chasing off larger birds, stake out the territory before the females arrive. She flashes the white tips of her tail, and if they mate, it is for no more than five seconds.
After creating her nest, the female hummingbird will lay one to three eggs, with two being the most common. And so the cycle begins again.
These incredible birds can live as long as eight years, which means that the females can lay up to twenty-four eggs, though sixteen is more likely.
What does the rufous hummingbird look like?
The rufous hummingbird is around eight centimeters in length with a wingspan approximately three centimeters longer than that. The miniature females outsize the males.
They have gorgeous orange, green and white feathers, with the female coloration being less vibrant than the male. You can find several pictures of these delights here. (If you are interested in their sounds, check out this incredible collection.)
Troubling future for the rufous hummingbirds
While these delightful birds are still abundant, their numbers are declining. According to pacificbirds.org, their numbers decline around three percent each year. The climate crisis is impacting their forested habitat, and expanding their migration route.
If you are interested in attracting them to your yard, put out sugar-water feeders. Do not add food coloring, which can be toxic to the birds. Those with the room can also plant foliage to support the rufous hummingbird.
When do you see rufous hummingbirds in your area? Have you ever seen one of these aggressive birds chase off a larger bird? No matter what your experiences with the rufous hummingbird are, please share them here with us.