occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Type of Residency: Breeding
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Type of Residency: Breeding
Global Range: BREEDING: in mountains from central interior British Columbia and southwestern Alberta south through Washington, Oregon, Nevada, and California to northern Baja California, east to northern Wyoming, western Colorado, and Utah; nests from 180 m (Washington) to >3000 m (California). NON-BREEDING: Baja California, Sonora, and Sinaloa south to central Mexico.
Length: 8 cm
Weight: 3 grams
Habitat and Ecology
Comments: Mountains; along meadows, canyons and streams. Open montane forest, mountain meadows, and willow and alder thickets, gardens; in migration and winter also in chaparral, lowland brushy areas, deserts (AOU 1983). Nests in tree (frequently conifer) at edge of meadow or in canyon or thicket along stream. Nests <1-21 m above ground (usually low, with branch or foliage above). Nectar supply unimportant in location of male's breeding territory (Armstrong 1987).
Non-Migrant: No. All populations of this species make significant seasonal migrations.
Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).
Locally Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.
In spring migrates through western Mexico, arrives in southern California in early March, British Columbia in late-April to mid-May, Idaho and Montana usually not before mid-May. Departs northern breeding range by late-August to mid-September, gone from southern U.S. by late September (Johnsgard 1983).
Comments: Feeds on nectar, insects (some obtained by hawking) and spiders. Tends to feed close to ground. Food sources include: CASTILLEJA, PENSTEMON, AQUILEGIA, IPOMOPSIS, RIBES, ARCTOSTAPHYLOS, MIMULUS, PEDICULARIS, SARCODES.
See Calder and Calder (1995, Auk 112:517-521) for some density data.
Life History and Behavior
In southern British Columbia, defends territories late April-late June. Two eggs are laid during May-July in British Columbia and California. Incubation lasts about 15 days. Young are capable of flight about 20 days after hatching (Terres 1980). One brood per year.
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: N4B - Apparently Secure
Rounded National Status Rank: N5B - Secure
NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure
The calliope hummingbird (Selasphorus calliope) is a very small hummingbird native to the United States and Canada and, during winter, Central America. It was previously considered the only member of the genus Stellula, but recent evidence suggests placement in the genus Selasphorus. This bird was named after the Greek muse Calliope. The genus name means "little star".
This is the smallest breeding bird found in Canada and the United States. The only smaller species ever found in the U.S. is the bumblebee hummingbird, an accidental vagrant from Mexico. An adult calliope hummingbird can measure 7–10 cm (2.8–3.9 in) in length, span 11 cm (4.3 in) across the wings and weigh 2 to 3 g (0.071 to 0.106 oz). These birds have glossy green on the back and crown with white underparts. Their bill and tail are relatively short. The adult male has wine-red streaks on the throat, green flanks and a dark tail. Females and immatures have a pinkish wash on the flanks, dark streaks on the throat and a dark tail with white tips. The only similar birds are the rufous hummingbird and the Allen's hummingbird, but these birds are larger with more distinct and contrasting rufous markings on tail and flanks, and longer central tail feathers.
Habitat and distribution
The breeding habitat of calliope hummingbird is varied among open shrub habitats and altitudes. Nesting usually occurs at higher altitudes in the Rocky Mountains. Nests have been observed from as low as 300 m (980 ft) in Washington elevation to the tree line at over 3,000 m (9,800 ft). In Montana, the minimum elevation observed for breeding is 1,200 m (3,900 ft). Open montane forest, mountain meadows, and willow and alder thickets may variously serve as breeding grounds. During migration and winter, they also occur in chaparral, lowland brushy areas, deserts and semi-desert regions. They nest in western North America from southern British Columbia and Alberta south to Colorado and southern California. During spring and summer, they move, mainly through Arizona and New Mexico and northern Mexico, to winter in southwestern Mexico as well as in Guatemala and Belize.
Calliope hummingbird is migratory bird, generally leaving their breeding grounds earlier than most birds (although not as early as the rufous hummingbird) to take advantage of the late-summer wildflowers in the mountains of western North America. They are believed to be the smallest-bodied long distance migrant in the world.
These birds feed on nectar from flowers using a long extendable tongue, drink sap from holes created by sapsuckers or catch insects on the wing. While collecting nectar, they also assist in plant pollination. Plants preferred for pollinating include paintbrush, penstemon, columbine, trumpet gilia, and elephant head. They will also occasionally catch and eat small insects and spiders.
Adult males usually arrive on the breeding ground before females, from mid-April to early May. The male claims and vigorously defends a nesting territory in which he will breed with many females. The male takes no part in raising the young and often actually vacates the breeding grounds by the time the young hatch. The female usually builds an open cup nest in a conifer under an overhanging branch, though apple and alder trees have also been used. The nest is often built on the base of large pine cones and somewhat resembles a pine cone itself. A nest may be used repeatedly over the course of several years. Two eggs are laid from late May to early July and are incubated for 15 to 16 days. The young are capable of flight about 20 days after hatching.
Many species of pollinators, including the calliope hummingbird, have shown decreases in certain populations. Little information is available on the overall issues that are causing these declines but possible threats include habitat loss, increased use of pesticides, and replacement of native plants by non-native plants (although, on the other hand, many hummingbirds benefit from non-native plants in gardens that provide additional food). The restricted wintering range of calliope hummingbirds makes the species more susceptible to natural disasters, diseases, or land use changes that could wipe out significant portions of the population. The calliope hummingbird has not been well studied, leaving much of its life history unknown.
- BirdLife International (2012). "Stellula calliope". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.1. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 16 July 2012.
- McGuire, J.A.; Witt, C.C.; Remsen Jr., J.V.; Dudley, R.; Altshuler, D.L. (2009). "A higher-level taxonomy for hummingbirds". Journal of Ornithology 150: 155–165. doi:10.1007/s10336-008-0330-x.
- Calliope Hummingbird, Life History, All About Birds – Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Allaboutbirds.org. Retrieved on 2012-08-22.
- Calliope hummingbird Info. Imnh.isu.edu. Retrieved on 2012-08-22.
- Calliope Hummingbird | National Audubon Society Birds. Birds.audubon.org (2012-05-15). Retrieved on 2012-08-22.
- Vagrant bird living in city, New Haven Register, December 6, 2006
- Hummingbird flies away from park; fans hope she’ll survive, New Haven Register, December 9, 2006
The smallest bird in North America north of Mexico, the Calliope Hummingbird inhabits mountain areas of the northwestern United States. It is the smallest long-distance avian migrant in the world, spending its winters in Mexico. Its mass is about one-third that of the smallest North American warblers.
Names and Taxonomy
Comments: Formerly placed in the genus Stellula, but genetic data indicate that Selasphorus is paraphyletic if calliope is excluded (AOU 2012 and sources cited therein). Placed in the genus Archilochus by Johnsgard (1983) and Howell and Webb (1995).