Photo: Rick & Nora Bowers/Vireo

Calliope Hummingbird

Selasphorus calliope

This is the smallest bird in North America, measuring about 3 inches long and weighing about one-tenth of an ounce. Despite its tiny size, it is able to survive cold summer nights at high elevations in the northern Rockies, and some migrate every year from Canada all the way to southern Mexico. In migration it may be overlooked, often feeding at low flowers and avoiding the aggression of larger hummingbirds.
Conservation status Fairly common in its range, but vulnerable to effects of habitat loss.
Family Hummingbirds
Habitat Forest glades, canyons, usually in mountains. Breeds mostly from 4,000 feet up to near treeline. Favors open shrubby areas, especially near streams, and may be most common in second growth several years after fire or logging. Winters mostly in pine-oak woods of mountains in Mexico, and migrants occur both in mountains and lowlands.
This is the smallest bird in North America, measuring about 3 inches long and weighing about one-tenth of an ounce. Despite its tiny size, it is able to survive cold summer nights at high elevations in the northern Rockies, and some migrate every year from Canada all the way to southern Mexico. In migration it may be overlooked, often feeding at low flowers and avoiding the aggression of larger hummingbirds.
Photo Gallery
  • adult male
  • adult female
  • adult male
  • Juvenile male
  • adult male
  • adult female
Feeding Behavior

Often visits flowers growing within inches of the ground. At flowers, usually feeds while hovering, extending its bill deep into the center of the flower. At feeders, may either hover or perch. To catch small insects, may fly out and capture them in midair, or hover to pluck them from foliage.


Eggs

2. White. Incubation is by female only, 15-16 days. Young: Female feeds the young, and broods them to keep them warm between feeding bouts and at night. Age of young at first flight about 18-21 days.


Young

Female feeds the young, and broods them to keep them warm between feeding bouts and at night. Age of young at first flight about 18-21 days.

Diet

Mostly nectar and insects. Takes nectar from flowers, and will feed on tiny insects as well. Will also feed on sugar-water mixtures in hummingbird feeders.


Nesting

Male establishes breeding territory and drives other males away. Male performs a U-shaped courtship flight display, rising 30-100 feet and diving steeply, with popping and zinging sound at bottom of dive, then rising again. Male also hovers before female with throat feathers flared out. Nest site is usually in a pine or other conifer, sometimes in deciduous shrub. Usually 6-40 feet up, can be much higher. Sometimes built on base of old pine cone. Nest (built by female) is a compact cup of plant down, moss, bark fibers, spider webs, with the outside camouflaged with bits of lichen.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
Learn more about these drawings.

Migration

Moves northwest in early spring, mostly through Pacific lowlands, and moves southeast in very early fall (beginning in July) mostly through Rocky Mountain region. Adult males migrate slightly earlier than females or young at both seasons.

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Migration

Moves northwest in early spring, mostly through Pacific lowlands, and moves southeast in very early fall (beginning in July) mostly through Rocky Mountain region. Adult males migrate slightly earlier than females or young at both seasons.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
A high-pitched tsew.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
Learn more about this sound collection.