The Rufous is a fairly small hummingbird with a slender, nearly straight bill, a tail that tapers to a point when folded, and fairly short wings that don't reach the end of the tail when the bird is perched. In good light, male Rufous Hummingbirds glow like coals: bright orange on the back and belly, with a vivid iridescent-red throat. Females are green above with rufous-washed flanks, rufous patches in the green tail, and often a spot of orange in the throat.
These hummingbirds typically breed in open or shrubby areas, forest openings, yards, and parks, and sometimes in forests, thickets, swamps, and meadows from sea level to about 6,000 feet. During their migration, look for Rufous Hummingbirds as high as in our mountain meadows up to 10,000 feet elevation.
Areas such as Galena Creek and some of our local parks and backyards are good places to find Rufous Hummingbirds while they're around, but these birds spend much of the year on the move. Rufous Hummingbirds may take up temporary residence in your flower-filled garden or by putting out nectar feeders. However, they may also make life difficult for any other hummingbird species that visit your yard. If you live on their migration route, visiting Rufous Hummingbirds are likely to move on after just a week or two.
Rufous Hummingbirds feed primarily on nectar from colorful, tubular flowers including columbine, scarlet gilia, penstemon, Indian paintbrush, mints, lilies, fireweeds, larkspurs, currants, and heaths. Rufous Hummingbirds get protein and fat from eating insects, particularly gnats, midges, and flies taken from the air, and aphids taken from plants.
This species often comes to hummingbird feeders. Make sugar water mixtures with about one-quarter cup of sugar per cup of water. Food coloring is unnecessary; refined table sugar is the best choice since other sugars such as brown, organic or blends can have iron which can build up over time and become lethal. Change the water before it grows cloudy or discolored and remember that during hot weather, sugar water ferments rapidly to produce toxic alcohol.
The Rufous Hummingbird makes one of the longest migratory journeys of any bird in the world, as measured by body size. At just over 3 inches long, its roughly 3,900-mile movement (one-way) from Alaska to Mexico is equivalent to 78,470,000 body lengths. In comparison, the 13-inch-long Arctic Tern's one-way flight of about 11,185 mi is only 51,430,000 body lengths
For more information on Rufous Hummingbirds, visit one of the three Moana Nursery store locations: 1100 W. Moana Ln. & 11301 S. Virginia St., Reno and 7644 Pyramid Hwy., Sparks.