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Rufous Hummingbird, Alan Burger
Photo © Alan Burger

Photo: Alan Burger
Breeding evidence - Rufous Hummingbird
Breeding evidence
Probability of observation - Rufous Hummingbird
Probability of observation
Elevation plot - Rufous Hummingbird
Elevation plot

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Rufous Hummingbird
Selasphorus rufus
Landscape associations:

Click on plot to view table of mean abundance
Elevation range:
0 - 2223 m
Conserv. status:
Not at risk
Global importance
of B.C. population:
Number of squares
ConfirmedProbablePossiblePoint counts
266 534 947 705
Long-term BBS trends
RegionYearsTrend (conf. interv.) Reliab.
Brit. Col.1970 - 2012 -1.87 (-2.71 - -1.03)Medium
Canada1973 - 2012 -1.87 (-2.69 - -1.04)Medium

Mean abundance by region

Bird Conservation Regions [plot]
NW Interior ForestBoreal Taiga PlainsGreat BasinNorthern RockiesN. Pacific Rainforest
0.10.01 0.090.09 0.2
Ecoprovinces [plot]
N. Boreal Mountains Taiga Plains Boreal Plains Georgia Depression Sub-Boreal Interior
0.1  0.010.19 0.07
S. Interior Mountains Central Interior Southern Interior S. Alaska Mountains Coast & Mountains
0.10.08 0.08  0.21

Mean abundance by habitat [plot]

Boreal Altai Fescue AlpineBoreal White and Black SpruceBunchgrassCoastal Douglas-fir
Coastal Mountain-heather AlpineCoastal Western HemlockEngelmann Spruce -- Subalpine FirInterior Cedar -- Hemlock
Interior Douglas-firInterior Mountain-heather AlpineMontane SpruceMountain Hemlock
0.09 0.060.16
Ponderosa PineSpruce -- Willow -- BirchSub-Boreal Pine -- SpruceSub-Boreal Spruce
0.05 0.060.08

Characteristics and Range For many British Columbians, the arrival of the Rufous Hummingbird is a much-anticipated sign of spring. This hummingbird performs the longest migration in the world measured as distance travelled relative to body length, from its wintering range in Mexico and the Gulf States, to breeding grounds in the Northern Pacific Rainforest east to the Northern Rockies (Healy and Calder 2006). Along the way, it maintains astonishing temporal and site fidelity; banders often capture the same individual, at the same feeder, on the same date, year after year. Some individuals have been re-caught multiple times over a period of eight years (A. Moran personal observation).

Distribution, Abundance, and Habitat The Rufous Hummingbird is found over most of the province. Although its distribution has not changed greatly since The Birds of British Columbia was published in 1990, the Atlas recorded more northerly confirmations of breeding, supporting the conclusions of Phinney (1998) and Siddle (2010) that the species' range in northeast British Columbia is expanding. Local distribution of the population is in constant flux over the course of the breeding season. Males arrive first, from mid- to late March on the south coast, to mid-May in the interior. Most females arrive about two weeks after the males and immediately commence breeding. Males then move to higher elevations from early June and females follow from early July (in the interior, these dates are off-set by at least a month). Juveniles disperse from late June. This complex pattern results in many 10-km squares having a possible breeding evidence code.

The Probability of Observation model, combined with abundance data from point counts, show that the Georgia Depression and Coast and Mountains ecoprovinces support the centre of provincial abundance. Point counts indicate that the species is most common at elevations below 250 m, and in Coastal Douglas-fir and Coastal Western Hemlock biogeoclimatic zones. In the interior there appears to be a slightly stronger association with Interior Cedar-Hemlock than other biogeoclimatic zones.

Arrival on the coast is timed closely with the blooming of Red-flowering Currant (Ribes sanguineum) and Salmonberry (Rubus spectabilis), and resources provided by the heather family (Ericaceae), including Arbutus (Arbutus menziesii). A wide variety of flowering plants provide nectar, from Saskatoon (Amelanchier alnifolia) to alpine specialists, such as honeysuckles (Lonicera), columbines (Aquilegia), paintbrushes (Castilleja) and Penstemon species. Sapsucker wells can be important food sources, and the Rufous Hummingbird also feeds on small flying insects. Females require a calcium source for breeding, so nesting sites are usually located near areas where ash or exposed calcium salts may be obtained. The female generally nests in conifers such as Western Redcedar (Thuja plicata) and Douglas-fir (Psuedotsuga menziesii), but will occasionally nest near the crown of deciduous trees. Nests from previous years are sometimes reused.

Conservation and Recommendations There has been a large decrease in Rufous Hummingbird populations since the 1970s, which is not well understood (Healy and Calder 2006, Environment Canada 2011). Monitoring of population trends throughout British Columbia should continue via the Breeding Bird Survey and banding. Research should be undertaken to assess the effects of landscape change on population distribution and breeding success.

Alison Moran and David F. Fraser

Recommended citation: Moran, A. and D.F. Fraser. 2015. Rufous Hummingbird in Davidson, P.J.A., R.J. Cannings, A.R. Couturier, D. Lepage, and C.M. Di Corrado (eds.). The Atlas of the Breeding Birds of British Columbia, 2008-2012. Bird Studies Canada. Delta, B.C. [14 Jul 2024]

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