An Imperial Beach Hidden Gem and Bird of the Week, the Costa's Hummingbird
Apr 06, 2017 10:59AM
● By Paul Spear
The Costa's Hummingbird
This week’s “Bird of the Week” is the Costa's hummingbird (Calypte costae) female. The female Costa's hummingbird is not as distinct as the male, having grayish-green above with a white underbelly. Common within its range. numbers undoubtedly have declined where the desert is cleared for development, but in some places it has adapted to nesting in the suburbs.
The desert might seem like a bad place for a creature that feeds at flowers, but it is the favored habitat for Costa's Hummingbird. In Arizona and California deserts, this species nests during late winter and spring, and most then avoid the hot summer by migrating to coastal California and Baja. The thin, high-pitched whistle of the male is often heard over desert washes in early spring. Usual habitat is deserts, washes, and sage scrub, mostly in dry and open habitats having a good variety of plant life, such as washes and streamsides in the Sonoran desert, lower parts of dry canyons, and coastal sage scrub. Rarely, they move up into mountain meadows after breeding season.
Costa’s hummingbirds eat mostly nectar and insects. They take nectar from flowers, and will
feed on tiny insects as well. They often visit desert natives such as agave, chuparosa, desert honeysuckle, and fairy-duster, and will also feed on sugar-water mixtures in hummingbird feeders. At flowers, they usually feed while hovering, extending their bills into flowers. At feeders, they may either hover or perch. To catch small insects, they may fly out and capture them in midair, or hover to pluck them from foliage.
In courtship display, males fly high, then zoom down past perched females and climb again, making shrill high-pitched whistles during the dive. They also give the same whistled song while perched. One male may mate with several females. Nest sites are in a rather open or sparsely leaved shrub or small tree, sometimes in yucca or cactus, usually 2-8
feet above the ground placed on a horizontal or diagonal branch. Nests, usually built by females, is a compact cup of plant fibers, bits of leaves or flowers, and spider webs; usually having a grayish look. Females continue to add to their nest during the incubation period.
After mating females lay 2 white eggs. Incubation is by females only in about 15-18 days. Females feed the young. Age of young at first flight is in about 20-23 days.
I was happy to spot this occasional visitor to the Tijuana Estuary. I wish I had also spotted the more colorful male too. You never know what you will find there while enjoying a walk or bike ride. Until next week, happy birding!
If you would like to see more of Bryan's Bird Photos you can click on this link: