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Dig Imperial Beach

An Imperial Beach Hidden Gem and Bird of the Week, Costa’s Hummingbird

Dec 27, 2018 11:08PM ● 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 Costa's Hummingbird.

Costa's Hummingbird

This week’s “Bird of the Week” is Costa's Hummingbird (Calypte costae), a very small hummingbird, a mature adult growing to only 3–3.5 in (7.6–8.9 cm) in length. 

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. Common within its range, populations have undoubtedly declined where desert is cleared for development, but in some places it has adapted to nesting in suburbs. 

Habitat is in deserts, washes, and sage scrub. They are mostly found 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 their breeding season.

At flowers, they usually feed while hovering, extending their bill into 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 often visit desert natives such as agave, chuparosa, desert honeysuckle, and fairy-duster, but will also feed on sugar-water mixtures in hummingbird feeders.

After breeding, females lay 2 white eggs. Incubation is by females only, in 15-18 days. Females feed their young. Age of young at first flight is about 20-23 days.

In courtship display, males fly high, then zoom down past perched females and climb again, making a shrill high-pitched whistle during the dive. They also give the same whistled song while perched. One male may mate with several females. Nest site is in a rather open or sparsely leaved shrub or small tree, sometimes in yucca or cactus, usually 2-8 feet above the ground. Nests are placed on a horizontal or diagonal branch. Nests (built by females) are 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 nests during the incubation period.

Costa's hummingbird is not a common visitor to our own Tijuana Estuary, but I was lucky enough to spot a female there recently. Again, you never know what you will see there. Enjoy searching for this species, and the many other seasonal visitors there. 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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Paul Spear, Publisher, and Editor of Dig Imperial Beach 



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