The Rufous hummingbird, belonging to family Trochilidae, is one of the smallest birds in the world. It is one of the seven species that belong to genus Selasphorus. They are known for their great flying skills. As estimated by Partners in Flight, their present worldwide breeding population is about 11 million.
Species: S. Rufus
The scientific name for Rufous hummingbird is Selasphorus Rufus.
Adult Rufous hummingbirds are 7.3 to 9.2 centimetres in length, and they weigh around 2.8 to 4.1 grams. Male’s pileum is bronzy-green in color; and the gorget region is bright orange or reddish. Their under part is white. The throat and the chin carry shiny metallic red color. Females have metallic bronzy-green upper parts and its pileum isa bit duller compared to males. Their throat, chin and breast is dull white. They have two sets of tiny vocal muscles in its trachea. They have a thin, long bill that is dark brown or dull black. They have dusky feet.
During breeding months, they are found in forests, spruce-fir habitats and riparian shrub regions. During winter time, they migrate to high mountain meadows, seacoasts, foothill brush lands and lowland stream bottoms; and especially to those areas where flowers are present.
They inhabit western and coastal parts of North America from the months of March to August. From October to February, they migrate to Mexico.
Rufous hummingbirds are not social creatures. The generally do not socialize with other individuals of its species. Males are known to fiercely defend its territory both for food and during mating. In the case of an intrusion, male chase and kick the intruder to drive away from its territory. Fights mostly take place in mid-air, in which grasping with wings and claws are common features. During their yearly migration, they travel more than 8000 kilometers. They take hold of a lot of oxygen when it flies. They use seven times more oxygen when hovering in the air. When resting, their heartbeat can be around 480 beats per minute, but it reaches around 1260 beats when enlivened or thrilled. Individuals clean themselves with the use of their claws and bill. They use oil from a gland located on its tail to waterproof their feathers. They bath in a shallow pool or a cupped leaf.
Male’s mating display include steep ‘U’ or vertical oval flight. Flying high up in the air and diving down steeply, along with producing popping sounds are also common. A single male may mate with more than one female in a single season. Nest is made by the female. It is usually made in lower part of the vines, shrubs, coniferous trees and it is usually not made higher than 15 feet from the ground. Nest is made with spider webs, grasses, moss and many soft plant materials. They often refurbish and use old nests. Female lay 2 eggs (rarely 1 or 3) following copulation. Incubation goes on for 15 to 18 days, and it is done by the female only. Female feed the nestlings by regurgitating little insects. The young ones take their first flight when they are 21 days old.
This little bird species feed on ants, tiny wasps, flies, small beetles as well as other small insects. They also consume flower nectar (which is their primary source for energy) from many flowering plants like black locust, scarlet sage, horsemint and honeysuckle among others. They have also been noted feeding on sap from tree holes. They eat around 1/2 to 3 times of its total body weight.
In the wild, their lifespan is around 8 years.
Males emit a high-pitched trill. Both male and female produce chip notes if they notice any intrusion in their territory.
Intensified agriculture, climate change, and use of pesticides in farmlands are considered to be the main threats to its survival.
In the wild, their predators include tiny hawks, owls, weasels and merlins. At times, invertebrates, such as spiders, also feed on this little bird.
As per the North American Breeding Bird Survey, their population has decreased by around two percent each year between 1966 to 2014. In the year 2018, the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species placed this species in the ‘Near Threatened’ category from ‘Least Concern’ category.
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