At a Glance
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.
All bird guide text and rangemaps adapted from Lives of North American Birds by Kenn Kaufman© 1996, used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Desert and Arid Habitats, Forests and Woodlands, High Mountains, Shrublands, Savannas, and Thickets
California, Northwest, Rocky Mountains, Southeast, Southwest, Texas, Western Canada
Flitter, Hovering, Rapid Wingbeats
Range & Identification
Migration & Range Maps
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.
2 3/4-3 1/4" (7-8 cm). Our smallest hummingbird. Adult male has smeary magenta stripes on throat, pale green on sides. Female and young smaller than female Rufous Hummingbird, with shorter bill; short, rounded tail, with very little rusty at base; often shows a pale buff wash clear across chest.
About the size of a Sparrow
Green, Orange, Purple, Red
Narrow, Rounded, Short
Notched, Rounded, Square-tipped
Songs and Calls
A high-pitched tsew.
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.
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2. White. Incubation is by female only, 15-16 days.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Fairly common in its range, but vulnerable to effects of habitat loss.
Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect the range of the Calliope Hummingbird. Learn even more in our Audubon’s Survival By Degrees project.
Climate Threats Facing the Calliope Hummingbird
Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.