Rufous hummingbird at Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge
A juvenille male rufous hummingbird nectaring on Rocky Mountain Beeplant at Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge in Wyoming.
Rufous hummingbirds (Selasphorus rufus) are amazing because of the great distance they migrate from their wintering grounds in Mexico and the southern United States to their breeding grounds in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, western Canada, and southern Alaska. In addition, they breed further north than any other hummingbird.
In order to make its marathon journey from breeding to wintering grounds and back, this bird makes great use of a variety of food sources. As with its other hummingbird relatives, nectar from flowering plants makes up a large part of the diet. Small insects are also eaten, found either on the wing or through aerial foraging. When nectar is scarce, rufous hummingbirds will also make use of wells drilled in trees by sapsuckers. They’re also quite territorial, and will defend their flower patches from other birds.
The lengthy clockwise migration route, which occurs primarily to the west of the Rocky Mountains in the spring and through the Rocky Mountains in the fall, makes the species unique. And, this small bird plays an important role in plant reproduction by moving pollen from plant to plant on its winter grounds, breeding grounds, and any area over which it migrates. From Alaska to Mexico and throughout the western United States, the rufous hummingbird drinks nectar and pollinates flowers year-round throughout the thousands of miles of habitat that it visits annually.
Photo: Tom Koerner/USFWS