Hands-down, the smallest bird in all of the United States is the Calliope hummingbird. It weighs about as much as a standard-size ping pong ball, and its the smallest bird to make a long-distance migration in all the world. From their wintering grounds to their breeding grounds (and back again), these birds travel approximately 5,000 miles annually. Feeding largely on the nectar of plants, and with wings that beat so fast they’re a continual blur, these hummingbirds both expend and consume a tremendous amount of energy each and every day. Following are several Calliope hummingbird facts that are certain to impress.
They’re Very Territorial
Their diminutive size and impressively lightweight bodies definitely don’t slow them down. More importantly, they don’t deter them from picking a fight either. These birds are incredibly territorial and are prone to picking fights when they feel as though their territory is being impinged upon. In fact, they’ve been know to chase Red-tailed hawks and other large-sized birds during their breeding season.
They Enjoy Fairly Long Lifespans
A female bird of this species was banded in Idaho in 2007. In 2014, she was recaptured and rereleased in this same state. As the result of this finding, the oldest bird of this species on record is estimated to be a minimum of eight years and one month old.
Their Breeding Territory Is Established By The Males
The males of this species are responsible for establishing their breeding territory. They do so by forcibly driving other male hummingbirds away. Then, they perform an impressive flight display for courtship that takes them 30 to 100 feet into the air. They then make a sharp, u-shaped dive that produces a distinct zinging and popping sound right at the bottom. Males will also flare out their throat feathers and hover in front of females in courtship.
They Usually Catch Their Food Within Just Inches Of The Ground
These birds eat much like other hummingbirds in that they largely subsist on insects and nectar. Calliope hummingbirds, frequently visit flowers that are situated mere inches above the ground. They feed by extending their bills into the center of flowers while hovering directly above them. If you put homemade nectar in your hummingbird feeders, however, Calliope hummingbirds will certainly visit these too.
Quick Tips To Help You Spot These Hummingbirds
Studying a few Calliope hummingbird facts won’t just teach you more about this remarkable species. If you’re a dedicated birder, you can also use this information to spot and identify any Calliope hummingbirds that are within or passing through your area. One of the best strategies for catching a glimpse of these tiny fliers is by finding their favorite breeding grounds and perches. For instance, they love resting on the bare branches of alders and willows. These are places that they habitually return to and thus, you can simply check out the very tops of these shrubs to find them.
In the summertime, listen for the distinctive zing of the Calliope hummingbird’s fast-moving wings, particularly as it dives down in forest openings and meadows in a u-shaped flight pattern. In the spring months, due to the elliptical route of migration, these birds are most often spied in coastal regions. Conversely, in the cooler months of fall, find them at higher elevations in interior locations.