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An Imperial Beach Hidden Gem and "Bird of the Week" is the Calliope Hummingbird

Jan 11, 2018 12:58PM ● By Paul Spear

An Imperial Beach Hidden Gem and Bird of the Week, Bryan Brillhart Photography present the “Dig IB” Bird of the Week, the is the the Calliope Hummingbird 

This week’s “Bird of the Week” is the Calliope hummingbird (Selasphorus calliope), a very small hummingbird, in fact, it is the smallest breeding bird in Canada and the United States, measuring about 3 inches long and weighing about one-tenth of an ounce. Despite its tiny size, it is able to survive cold summer nights at high elevations in the northern Rockies, and some migrate every year from Canada all the way to southern Mexico. In migration they may be overlooked, often feeding at low flowers and avoiding the aggression of larger hummingbirds.

Their habitat is in forest glades and canyons, usually in mountains. They breed mostly from 4,000 feet up to near treelines. They favor open shrubby areas, especially near streams, and may be most common in second growth areas several years after a fire or logging. They winter mostly in pine-oak woods of mountains in Mexico, and migrants occur both in mountains and lowlands. They are fairly common in their range, but are vulnerable to the effects of habitat loss.

Calliope hummingbirds often visit flowers growing within inches of the ground. At flowers, they usually feed while hovering, extending its bill deep into the center of the flower. 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.

Their diet is mostly nectar and insects. They take nectar from flowers, and will feed on tiny insects as well. They will also feed on sugar-water mixtures in hummingbird feeders.

After mating, females lay 2 white eggs. Incubation is by females only in about 15-16 days. Females feed their young, and brood them to keep them warm between feeding bouts and at night. Age of their young at first flight is in about 18-21 days.

Males establish breeding territories and drive other males away. Males perform a U-shaped courtship flight displays, rising 30-100 feet and diving steeply, with a popping and zinging sound at bottom of their dive, then rising again. Males also hover before females with their throat feathers flared out.

Nest sites are usually in a pine or other conifer, and sometimes in a deciduous shrub. Nests are

usually 6-40 feet up, but can be much higher. Sometimes nests are built on the base of an old pine cone. Nests (built by females) are a compact cup of plant down, moss, bark fibers, and spider webs, with the outside camouflaged with bits of lichen.

I have only seen a few of this species in the Tijuana Estuary in the last few years. Since they are very small, they are hard to spot and photograph. I was thrilled to recently capture some photos of them. Look for the Calliope hummingbird and the many other species that call the Estuary their home. Until next week, happy birding!


If you would like to see more of Bryan's Bird Photos you can click on this link:

Bryan Brillhart Photography or Bird of the Week

Bryan Brillhart


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