The Rufous hummingbird packs quite a punch in its little body. It’s known for having a feisty nature and a brave determination to protect favorite feeders and flowers. Rufous hummingbirds will chase away much larger hummingbirds and even chipmunks and other small animals.
The male Rufous has bright orange on his back and belly, as well as a stunning red coat, making him easy to spot and identify. The female Rufous is green with a mostly white neck. A bright orange spot on her throat is the female’s most distinguishing feature. Both males and females move in a dart-like fashion with precise maneuverability.
In addition to a feisty nature, Rufous hummingbirds are also known for their stamina. They have the longest migration, as measured by body size, of any bird in the world! They travel almost four thousand miles making the one way trek from Alaska to Mexico. In case you’re wondering, that equates to more than 78 million body lengths for the three inch hummer. It’s closest competitor, the 13-inch-long Arctic Tern’s one-way flight of almost twelve thousand miles, is a little more than 50 million body lengths.
The Rufous breeds farther north than any other hummingbird in the United States, traveling all the way up to Alaska in the summer. For a little rest and relaxation they then head down to sunny Mexico for fall and winter. Many people along the Pacific Northwest look forward to seeing the Rufous as these mighty little birds make the long migration up and down the western United States.
Additionally, they have a great sense for location, which comes in handy when looking for food on a daily basis. They can remember exactly where a specific feeder was a year ago, even if it has been moved. The typical habitats for these birds are open areas, such as yards, parks, and forests.
Along with visiting feeders, Rufous hummingbirds enjoy feasting on colorful tubular flowers, such as scarlet gilia, mints, lilies, fireweeds, currants, and heaths. To get the protein they need to survive, they eat insects like gnats, midges, and flies. They’ll live in gardens for a while, but move on fairly quickly after one or two weeks. To take good care of these amazing birds, you should make sugar water mixtures on a one to four mixture (one cup of sugar for four cups of water). Be sure to do away with the sugar water if it becomes cloudy or the feeder fills with insects because the spoiled nectar can ferment producing a toxic alcohol.
If you hear a hard ticking sound or a clicking tik or chik that is doubled like ch-tik or ch-ti-tik, there is a Rufous nearby. The adult male will also make a buzzing sound with its wings to draw attention to itself. They make a ch-ch-ch-ch-chi sound, which is very similar to a stutter. Interestingly, immature males do not make any noise or typical sounds at all while they are diving.
When it comes to tough little birds, with lots of aggression and a will to fight for food, you can’t beat the Rufous hummingbird. If you want to see a female Rufous fiercely defending her feeder with everything she has including her quick moves, fanned out tail feathers and quirky sounds – just click on this video and stand back!