Bird of the Week – The Rufous Hummingbird

By Bob Walker

OK, let’s be diplomatic. Rufous Hummingbirds (Selasphorus rufus) have lots of personality. To put it mildly, they are bossy. These early fall migrants arrive in Los Alamos around July 4, and immediately attempt to hog all available food resources for their very own, chasing away other larger hummingbird competition with abundant attitude. Some Rufous Hummingbirds nest farther north than any other North American hummingbird, as far as southern Alaska. By mid-October, ours have departed for the winter, which they spend in southern Mexico, except for a growing population of them that have discovered the U.S. Gulf Coast, where they are being seen with increasing likelihood.

The bright orange color of the males makes them easy to distinguish from our other hummers. The females and the juveniles are another matter. Adult females usually have a few iridescent orange feathers on the central part of their gorget, and they all tend to have more rufous coloration on their sides and rumps than other hummingbirds. It is almost impossible to tell juvenile males from juvenile females unless you perform measurements that require you to be holding the bird (as bird banders do). The picture below is of an adult female.

Female Rufous Hummingbird by Bob Walker

You can also find more detailed articles about the Rufous Hummingbird on these web pages: and

Enjoy more beautiful photos of Rufous Hummingbirds at the Brian Small and Hari Viswanathan web sites. I also have posted a site with some local images.

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