Comments: Breeding habitat includes coniferous forest, second growth, thickets, and brushy hillsides, with foraging extending into adjacent scrubby areas and meadows with abundant nectar flowers (AOU 1998); habitat is chiefly secondary succession communities and forest openings (Calder 1993). On national forest lands in northern Idaho and western Montana, this species was most commonly detected on clearcut and seed-tree harvest units and in post-fire habitats; also riparian shrub, cedar-hemlock, and spruce-fir habitats (Hutto 1995). It had a higher probability of detection in cut rather than uncut forests (Hutto and Young, unpublished).
This hummingbird also is associated with old-growth coniferous forest stands. In western Oregon, it nested in 16-120 year-old second-growth and older than 120 year-old mature forest (Meslow and Wight 1975). In northern Idaho cedar-hemlock, it was significantly more abundant in selectively harvested and old-growth stands than in old-growth stands recently fragmented by clearcuts (Hejl and Paige 1993). In Oregon Cascades Douglas-fir forests, it was positively associated with stand age where old-growth stands included numerous small openings, and it was found in stands with large to very large western hemlocks (Gilbert and Allwine 1991). In two Washington Cascades studies, its occurrence in old-growth (200-700 years old) was double or nearly double that in young (40-80 years) or mature (80-190 years) forest stands (Carey et al. 1991; Manuwal 1991). Old-growth stands showed greater spatial diversity and midstory cover, and lower canopy cover (Carey et al. 1991). Abundance was higher in mesic and dry old-growth Douglas-fir stands than in wet stands (Manuwal 1991).
Nests are placed in trees, shrubs, or vines, about 1-15 meters (usually less than 5 meters) above ground (e.g., in blackberry bush, huckleberry bush, overhanging vine, alder, drooping branch of conifer, among roots of fallen tree, crown of deciduous tree; Johnsgard 1983). Baltosser (1989) observed that areas with both greater quantities and more predictable nectar supplies supported more hummingbird nests; this pattern may also apply to rufous hummingbird.
Habitat in migration and winter includes open situations where flowers are present (AOU 1998). During southward migration, this species uses mountain meadows and disturbed habitats with Castilleja spp, Aquilegia formosa, Epilobium angustifolium, Delphinium spp. Penstemon barbatus, Monarda menthaefolia, Linaria vulgaris, and Cleome serrulata (Calder 1993). In Mexico, it occurs in pine woods with abundant flowers and flowering shrubs; in open country with scattered trees and shrubs; suburban gardens, parks, vacant lots (Edwards 1972). Nonbreeding habitat also includes oak forests interspersed with pine and juniper between 2,300-3,000 meters; higher oak-fir forests; shrubby secondary succession habitats; arid thorn forest; brush at farm and roadside edges with Salvia spp.; scrublands and disturbed oak woodland (Calder 1993).