RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD  Selasphorus rufusSelasphorus rufus

The Rufous Hummingbird’s annual passage through Texas provides an exciting opportunity to watch hummingbird interactions as a male of this species attempt to monopolize a feeder by driving other hummingbirds away. In late July and early August when most migrant Rufous Hummingbirds are males the species is easiest to distinguish. Later when females and immatures are present, the task is harder. Fortunately the most easily confused species, Allen’s Hummingbird (S. sasin) is a very rare fall migrant and winter visitor (Calder 1993, Pyle 1997, Lockwood and Freeman 2004)

DISTRIBUTION and SEASONAL OCCURRENCE. During the 1987-1992 field work for the  TBBA project, atlasers found a probable breeding site for Rufous Hummingbird in latilong block 30104 and a possible in block 30103. Lockwood and Freeman (2004) report this hummingbird is a common southbound migrant from mid-July to early October in the Trans-Pecos region becoming less common eastward. Some of these birds winter (rare to locally uncommon) on the coast, in the lower Rio Grande valley and inland in the southern half of the state. These authors suggest the rare Rufous Hummingbirds found on spring migration in Texas have wintered here since almost all spring migrants of this species move north along the Pacific Coast. Since Rufous Hummingbird has not been reported breeding in Texas and since Oberholser (1974) reported that this species has been found in this state from July 12 to May 2, the 2 TBBA records probably represent migrants.

Rufous Hummingbirds breed from south Alaska through British Columbia, Alberta, Washington, Idaho and western Montana to Oregon. The species winters along the west   coast of mainland Mexico south to Oaxaca and rarely in the Gulf Coast states. (Calder 1993, Howell and Webb 1995).

BREEDING HABITAT. Rufous Hummingbirds breed in openings, clearings,  and meadow edgers in forested and brushy areas. The nest, built by the female, is a small, compact cup, placed on a low, drooping conifer branch, on a vine or on a root of an upturned tree. It is constructed of plant fibers and moss. The outside may be decorated with leaf or bud scales, lichens and shreds of bark .The structure is bound together with spider silk. Nests may be built on top of the previous year’s nest and are often in groups of up to 20.

The female lays 2 creamy white eggs, indistinguishable from those laid by similar-sized hummingbirds. The female incubates the eggs for 15-17 days before they hatch one day apart ( Harrison 1979, Calder 1993).

STATUS. The Breeding Bird Survey does not sample Rufous Hummingbird in Texas, but data from 223 routes of 40 km (25 mi) provide a statistically significant trend of -2.3% population change per year for the period 1966-2004 (Sauer et al 2005). This trend, while not encouraging, suggests Rufous Hummingbird will probably continue as a common fall migrant through western Texas in the near future.

Text by Robert C. Tweit (2005)

Texas Breeding Bird Atlas map

Literature cited.

Calder, W. A. 1993.Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus). In The birds of North America, No. 53 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA.

Harrison, H. H. 1979. A field guide to western birds’ nests. Houghton Mifflin, Boston, MA.

Howell, S. N. G. and S. Webb. 1995. A guide to the birds of Mexico and northern Central America. Oxford University Press, New York.

Lockwood, M. W. and B. Freeman. 2004. The TOS handbook of Texas birds. Texas A&M University Press, College Station.

Oberholser, H. C. 1974. The bird life of Texas, Vol. 1. University of Texas Press, Austin.

Pyle, P. 1997. Identification guide to North American birds, part 1. Slate Creek Press, Bolinas, CA.

Sauer, J. R., J. E. Hines, and J. Fallon. 2005. The North American Breeding Bird Survey, results and analysis 1966-2004. Version 2005.1. USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel MD (Web site,

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