Bird of the Week

Photo courtesy Charles Martinez

This week’s Bird of the Week, compliments of the Weminuche Audubon Society and Audubon Rockies, is the calliope hummingbird.
This bird, at 3 inches long, is the smallest breeding bird in Canada and the U.S., and the smallest long-distance migratory bird in the world. It can migrate as much as 5,600 miles from the western U.S. and Canada to its winter grounds in southern Mexico.
It is named after one of the muses of Greek mythology who represented eloquence and epic poetry. The name calliope means “beautiful voiced,” but, unfortunately, this hummer does not have a very melodic song. Its call is typically a high, thin “tseep.”
The adult male has long, striped purplish-red throat feathers accented with white and metallic green upper parts. The female and juvenile look more like rufous hummingbirds, but are smaller. Since they are often attacked and chased by larger hummers, the calliope tries to stay inconspicuous, perching and foraging closer to the ground.
They do not form extended pair bonds and the female is totally responsible for building the nest, incubating, the eggs and feeding the young. The nest is usually built in a conifer at the base of a cone or tree knot and is well-camouflaged.
They feed on flower nectar, feeders and insects captured in flight. Preferred flowers include paintbrushes, penstemon, columbine, trumpet gilia and elephant head.
They usually begin their southward migration to wintering areas earlier than other hummingbirds. They are usually seen here from late July through August. Their population remains widespread and common.
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