The Calliope Hummingbird

The Calliope Hummingbird

Published on May 12, 2017


Weighing in at 2.5 grams (smaller than a U.S. dime), Calliope Hummingbirds have made it to Idaho on their long migration from Mexico to Canada. Have you spotted one yet?

As a bird enthusiast, I eagerly await the arrival of the Calliope Hummingbirds in the Pacific Northwest each spring. Weighing 2.5 grams (that is smaller than a U.S. dime), the male Calliope Hummingbird is the smallest bird in North America but is resilient enough to make the journey all the way from southern Mexico.

This year, I first spotted a male Calliope on April 19th and a female on April 22nd. The timing is significant because the males depart Mexico first, followed by females about 10 days later. Migration is spread over a three-month period, which prevents a catastrophic weather event from wiping out the entire species. Each individual has its own map and schedule on getting from Mexico to Canada.

The adult male has a metallic green back and crown, but its most striking feature is the purple-magenta rays that may be erected to show a “whiskered” effect used to display dominance over other hummingbirds. The Calliope prefers high mountain areas and the female builds her nest over creeks or near roads next to streams or lakes, usually returning to the same nesting area every year.

It is very difficult to identify the female Calliope from the female Rufous hummingbird, the calliope will have a very tiny patch of white feathers above her bill while the Rufous female feathers will be all dark.


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