Photo: Sid & Shirley Rucker/Vireo

Costa's Hummingbird

Calypte costae

The desert might seem like a bad place for a creature that feeds at flowers, but it is the favored habitat for Costa's Hummingbird. In Arizona and California deserts, this species nests during late winter and spring, and most then avoid the hot summer by migrating to coastal California and Baja. The thin, high-pitched whistle of the male is often heard over desert washes in early spring.
Conservation status Common within its range. Undoubtedly has declined where desert is cleared for development, but in some places it has adapted to nesting in suburbs.
Family Hummingbirds
Habitat Deserts, washes, sage scrub. Mostly in dry and open habitats having a good variety of plant life, such as washes and streamsides in Sonoran desert, lower parts of dry canyons, coastal sage scrub. Rarely moves up into mountain meadows after breeding season.
The desert might seem like a bad place for a creature that feeds at flowers, but it is the favored habitat for Costa's Hummingbird. In Arizona and California deserts, this species nests during late winter and spring, and most then avoid the hot summer by migrating to coastal California and Baja. The thin, high-pitched whistle of the male is often heard over desert washes in early spring.
Photo Gallery
  • adult female
  • adult male
  • juvenile male
  • juvenile male
  • adult male
Feeding Behavior

At flowers, usually feeds while hovering, extending its bill into 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, 15-18 days. Young: Female feeds the young. Age of young at first flight about 20-23 days.


Young

Female feeds the young. Age of young at first flight about 20-23 days.

Diet

Mostly nectar and insects. Takes nectar from flowers, and will feed on tiny insects as well. Often visits desert natives such as agave, chuparosa, desert honeysuckle, and fairy-duster. Will also feed on sugar-water mixtures in hummingbird feeders.


Nesting

In courtship display, male flies high, then zooms down past perched female and climbs again, making shrill high-pitched whistle during the dive; also gives the same whistled song while perched. One male may mate with several females. Nest site is in rather open or sparsely leaved shrub or small tree, sometimes in yucca or cactus, usually 2-8 feet above the ground. Placed on horizontal or diagonal branch. Nest (built by female) is a compact cup of plant fibers, bits of leaves or flowers, spider webs; usually has a grayish look. Female continues to add to nest during incubation period.

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

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

Migration

Many that nest in deserts in spring migrate west to the coast for other seasons. However, where flowers are present all year (as in many suburban gardens), increasing numbers of Costa's now remain all year.

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Migration

Many that nest in deserts in spring migrate west to the coast for other seasons. However, where flowers are present all year (as in many suburban gardens), increasing numbers of Costa's now remain all year.

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

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