Here in Northern California I am fortunate to have at least three of the western hummingbirds of North America visiting my yard. The least common species of hummingbird I see here is the Calliope Hummingbird (Stellula calliope).

The smallest of the North American hummingbirds at just 3 1/4 inches, and with wings extending beyond its short tail, the Calliope Hummingbird is usually distinguishable from its larger counterparts by size alone.

Because of its shorter wing length, the Calliope also has faster wingbeats, making it sound more like a bumble bee. This also sets it apart from the larger hummers.

The male also has a unique gorget among North American hummingbirds. His iridescent gorget is divided into separate magenta-red rays, which can be elevated in an elegant star-burst display against the white background of his throat (click on photos for full sized images). To see the best example of this phenomenon, check out Wally Rufous’ photo here.

This beauty is the female Calliope Hummingbird, she looks similar to the female Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus) but she has dark and pale spots in front of her eye and a weak pale line over the base of her bill. She is the latest of our local breeders, not nesting usually until mid-May.

The female Rufous Hummingbird has more rufous in her flanks and often has a few patchy orange-red feathers on her throat. She will begin breeding in April.

The male is the only hummingbird in North America with a rufous back.

He also sports a brilliant orange-red gorget.

Enjoy this close-up look at this guy preening.

The most common hummingbird seen in my neck of the woods is Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna). The male is the only North American hummer with both a rose red crown and gorget.

The female is the earliest breeder of all these species, arriving on breeding grounds shortly after the males in November. Here you can see the female collecting nesting material.

The ability to take advantage of both nectar and insects allows Anna’s Hummingbirds to avoid competition from other hummingbirds by nesting in the winter.

The male Anna’s can be heard for quite a long way when performing his courtship display known as the “dive display” discussed in one of my previous posts.

If you haven’t seen a hover of hummingbirds around a feeder before, you may want to watch this video I filmed off my back porch. These little “jewels of the sky” are a blast to watch!

Written by Larry
Larry Jordan was introduced to birding after moving to northern California where he was overwhelmed by the local wildlife, forcing him to buy his first field guide just to be able to identify all the species visiting his yard. Building birdhouses and putting up feeders brought the avian fauna even closer and he was hooked. Larry wanted to share his passion for birds and conservation and hatched The Birder's Report in September of 2007. His recent focus is on bringing the Western Burrowing Owl back to life in California where he also monitors several bluebird trails. He is a BirdLife Species Champion and contributes to several other conservation efforts, being the webmaster for Wintu Audubon Society and the Director of Strategic Initiatives for the Urban Bird Foundation. He is now co-founder of a movement to create a new revenue stream for our National Wildlife Refuges with a Wildlife Conservation Pass.