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Species Profiles

Species Profile: Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus)

Species Profile: Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus)

By Ari Blatt (Western Washington University)


The Rufous Hummingbird gained its namesake due to the bright orange found on both males and females. Adult males have this coloring over all of its body, except for a white neck and green and black wings. Contrastingly, adult females are mostly bright green, with an orange-red spot on their otherwise white neck, and black wings. In flight, the quick movement of their wings creates a highy buzzy trill. Their call is a high hard chip.

This is the only species of hummingbird that can be found this far north. In the summer, its range stretches from the states of Oregon, Idaho, and Washington, through the province of British Columbia, and all the way up to Alaska. When summer ends in this region, it migrates through the southwestern United States to the Gulf of Mexico, where it spends the winter. Rarely, the Rufous Hummingbird can also be found on the east coast of North America.

Rufous Hummingbirds prefer to live in coniferous forests and riparian woods, where they feed on the nectar of flowers, as well as on small insects that they pick off of vegetation or capture in flight.

On June 25th, I made my first sighting of this bird. Earlier in the day, our group had hiked in the Johnson Range, bushwhacking through dense, wet forest until reaching a steep slope mixed with scree and low-lying vegetation. We made it up to a rocky summit, physically tired and annoyed with the presence of many mosquitoes, but amazed by the surrounding views. As we ate our lunches and identified plants in our immediate surroundings, the sound of thunder in the distance gradually became closer and closer. Soon enough, it was raining on us, and we knew it was time to get off of this treeless summit. As the rain came down harder and harder, we were quick in our descent down now dangerously slippery rocks, coming back to our base camp in Peter’s backyard cold and wet, drained by our exertions. After the rain had died down, I ventured out to the clothesline to hang up some of my belongings. As I put them on the line, an adult male Rufous Hummingbird seemed to come out of nowhere, hovering less than a meter away from my face, allowing me to take in its brilliant rusty orange coloring. It left just as quickly as it came, but this short moment left a big impression on me. Mostly, I was surprised that such a little creature could tough it out in the thunder and rain, just as we had. Its’ brief presence that day had an uplifting effect on me: if this bird could make it out here all summer long, of course I could for the remaining five and a half weeks of the program.

Later sightings of the bird occurred on our hike back from the Nakina River. During lunch breaks on the trail on both the 18th and 19th of July, two individual adult males flew by our group, showcasing their color to us, with their wings seeming to vibrate. Again, I felt uplifted upon seeing them, ready to continue hiking forward and meet whatever challenges were to come.


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