Bird O'clock

10 Fascinating Facts About the Calliope Hummingbird

The Calliope Hummingbird (Selasphorus calliope) is a unique bird species that can be found in the Western United States and parts of Canada. This little bird is the smallest bird species to breed in North America and is known for its high-pitched call and beautiful plumage.


Field Identification:

The male Calliope Hummingbird has distinctive plumage that sets it apart from other hummingbird species. It has a bright, iridescent magenta throat, a white belly, and a green back.

The female Calliope Hummingbird has a similar back pattern but lacks the bright magenta plumage on her throat. Both males and females have a short, straight bill, and their wings are shorter and more pointed than other hummingbird species.

Similar Species:

The Rufous Hummingbird is a similar-looking species that is often seen in the same habitats as the Calliope Hummingbird. The Rufous Hummingbird has a reddish-brown back and a bright orange-red throat, which is slightly longer than the Calliope’s magenta throat.

The Rufous also has a more curved bill. Plumages:

The Calliope Hummingbird goes through two molts each year, which affects their plumage.

In their first winter, they develop a juvenile plumage, which is a duller version of their adult plumage. After their first breeding season, they molt into their adult breeding plumage, which is bright, iridescent, and beautiful.


During the first molt, the birds lose all of their feathers and replace them with juvenile feathers. In their second molt, they replace all of their juvenile feathers with adult feathers.

The timing of these molts can vary depending on the bird’s age and sex, but they usually molt in late summer to early fall before migrating. In conclusion, the Calliope Hummingbird is a fascinating bird species that is known for its unique plumage and high-pitched call.

It is the smallest bird species to breed in North America, making it a popular target for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts. By understanding their field identification and molting patterns, we can better appreciate these tiny birds and appreciate the beauty of nature.

The Calliope Hummingbird (Selasphorus calliope) has an interesting systematics history, with changes in geographic distribution and the evolution of subspecies. In this article expansion, we will explore the history of the Calliope Hummingbird’s systematics, the different subspecies, and related species.

We will also examine how changes to the bird’s distribution have impacted its survival and evolution. Systematics History:

The Calliope Hummingbird was first described in 1829 by John James Audubon, and it was named after the Greek muse of poetry, Calliope.

In the early 1900s, it was classified as a subspecies of the Steller’s Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri) due to its small size and jay-like vocalizations. However, further studies revealed that it was a separate species, and it was reclassified as Selasphorus calliope in 1855.

Geographic Variation:

The Calliope Hummingbird has a broad range that stretches from Alaska to Mexico, and it is known for its altitude tolerance. It is common in mountainous areas, where it can be found between 4,000 and 9,000 feet above sea level.

The bird’s geographic range covers a large area, and as a result, it has developed several subspecies, each with distinctive characteristics. Subspecies:

There are three recognized subspecies of the Calliope Hummingbird: the Calliope Hummingbird (Selasphorus calliope calliope), the Sierra Calliope Hummingbird (Selasphorus calliope sierrae), and the Mexican Calliope Hummingbird (Selasphorus calliope occidentalis).

The Sierra and Mexican subspecies are smaller and have a slightly different coloration than the Calliope subspecies. The Sierra subspecies has a greenish back, while the Mexican subspecies has a violet-purple gorget.

Related Species:

The Calliope Hummingbird is part of the hummingbird family, which includes over 300 different species. It is closely related to other hummingbirds in the Selasphorus genus, including the Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus) and Allen’s Hummingbird (Selasphorus sasin).

These birds have similar physical characteristics and habitats but have distinct differences in their plumage and vocalizations. Historical Changes to Distribution:

The distribution of the Calliope Hummingbird has changed over time due to climate change, habitat loss, and other factors.

One notable change was the expansion of the bird’s range into the Pacific Northwest in the 20th century. This expansion was likely due to the creation of high-altitude reservoirs, which provided new habitats for the Calliope Hummingbird.

However, changes in the bird’s distribution have not always been positive. In recent years, the Calliope Hummingbird has experienced a decline in population due to habitat loss and fragmentation.

The loss of mountain meadows and forest habitats has limited the availability of nectar and insects, which are crucial for the bird’s survival. Additionally, the construction of roads and other infrastructure has led to habitat fragmentation, which has made it difficult for the bird to move between different habitats.

In conclusion, the systematics history of the Calliope Hummingbird reveals a fascinating story of evolution and diversification. The bird’s geographic variation and different subspecies highlight the adaptability of the species to different habitats and environmental conditions.

However, changes to the bird’s distribution have also had a significant impact on its survival and evolution, emphasizing the importance of habitat conservation and protection. Overall, the Calliope Hummingbird remains a unique and essential part of the natural world, and its continued survival is critical to maintaining the diversity of our planet’s ecosystems.

The Calliope Hummingbird (Selasphorus calliope) is a fascinating bird species whose habitat and migration patterns are worth exploring. In this article expansion, we will delve into the Calliope Hummingbird’s habitat, where they can be found, and how they move across different regions.


Calliope Hummingbirds are found in various habitats, particularly mountainous regions within western North America. These regions are characterized by dry, open forests, meadows, and shrubby habitats at high elevations.

These habitats provide the Calliope Hummingbirds with the necessary resources they need to survive, including nectar, insects, and breeding sites. The bird usually breeds in subalpine forests, where they can find suitable nesting sites.

Their nests are usually situated in conifers, and the trees’ dense foliage provides cover from predators. During the winter, the Calliope Hummingbird migrates to lower elevations in search of food and warmer temperatures.

Movements and Migration

The Calliope Hummingbird is a migratory bird species. Each year, they migrate from their breeding grounds in the Rocky Mountains and Pacific Northwest areas of the United States and Canada to their wintering grounds in Mexico.

The exact migration timing and path of the Calliope Hummingbird can vary depending on the season, weather, and other factors. During the breeding season, males will establish territories and attract females, usually arriving on their breeding grounds in early May.

Once breeding is complete, the birds begin their migration southward, starting in late July and early August. Calliope Hummingbirds will travel through the western United States and Mexico, with some birds flying as far as the southern tip of Mexico.

The birds typically travel alone or in small groups, flying low over the ground to avoid high winds. During migration, the hummingbirds will stop frequently to feed on nectar and insects.

These stopovers help to refuel their energy for the next leg of their journey. The Calliope Hummingbird has exceptional stamina and can cover vast distances during their migration.

The exact migration route and distance can vary depending on weather patterns and changes in habitat. Some birds may shift their migration patterns due to climate change, which can impact their breeding and wintering grounds.

These changes can also lead to increases or decreases in Calliope Hummingbird populations. In conclusion, the Calliope Hummingbird’s habitat and migration patterns are crucial for their survival and well-being.

The bird’s reliance on high-elevation habitats and access to food and shelter highlights the importance of habitat conservation and preservation. Additionally, understanding the bird’s migration patterns can help to inform conservation efforts and predict changes in population dynamics.

By protecting the Calliope Hummingbird and its habitat, we can ensure the ongoing survival of this remarkable bird species. The Calliope Hummingbird (Selasphorus calliope) is not only known for its beautiful plumage and unique migration patterns, but it also has fascinating foraging methods and vocal behavior.

In this article expansion, we will delve into the Calliope Hummingbird’s diet, foraging habits, metabolism, and vocal behavior.

Diet and Foraging

Calliope Hummingbirds feed primarily on nectar from flowering plants and insects. Their long, thin bills and tongue are perfectly adapted to reach deep into the flowers to extract nectar, and their high metabolism requires them to feed often.

Reports indicate that they consume over half their weight in nectar daily. Feeding:

The Calliope Hummingbird feeds primarily on nectar from flowers.

They also feed on insects, including flies, bees, wasps, gnats, and others. These insects provide the hummingbirds with essential proteins, minerals, and vitamins.

The Calliope Hummingbird also feeds on tree sap and other sugary fluids. When feeding, the bird hovers near a flower and uses its long, thin bill to extract nectar.


Their diet is essential, and the Calliope hummingbirds require a rigorous feeding routine since they have high metabolism with body temperatures that range from 103 to 109 degrees Fahrenheit. During cold nights, they can lower their metabolic rates, conserving energy by going into torpor, similar to hibernating animals.

Metabolism and Temperature Regulation:

The Calliope Hummingbird is a small hummingbird with a fast metabolism, which means it needs to consume a lot of food to maintain its energy levels. The bird’s metabolism is so high that it can maintain a body temperature of up to 109 degrees Fahrenheit in cold weather.

To regulate their temperature, these birds will use behaviors like sunning themselves on bare branches or rocks or fluttering their wings rapidly to generate heat.

Sounds and Vocal


Calliope Hummingbirds have a unique vocalization that distinguishes them from other hummingbird species. The males have a high-pitched, buzzy song that they use to attract mates and establish territories.

The vocalization is a series of chirps that sound like rapid bursts of noise. Typically, males vocalize more frequently and for longer durations during the breeding season.


Calliope Hummingbirds are known for their high-pitched vocalizations. Males use their songs to attract females and establish territories.

The chirps are high-pitched, rapid, and buzzy. These sounds can be heard from a distance, making them a useful tool for locating hummingbirds.

In conclusion, the Calliope Hummingbird has a unique diet and foraging habits that allow it to maintain high energy levels and body temperature. The hummingbirds have a fast metabolism that requires them to feed frequently on nectar and insects.

In terms of vocal behavior, Calliope Hummingbirds have a distinctive high-pitched vocalization that they use to communicate with one another and attract mates. By understanding these unique traits, we can better appreciate the incredible adaptations that hummingbirds have made to survive in their environments.

The Calliope Hummingbird (Selasphorus calliope) is known for its fascinating behavior patterns, including their locomotion, self-maintenance, agonistic and sexual behaviors. In this article expansion, we will delve into the Calliope Hummingbird’s behavior patterns, breeding, and demography and populations.



Calliope Hummingbirds have a unique locomotion pattern that allows them to navigate their mountainous habitats. They are capable of hovering, which allows them to stay still in mid-air while they access nectar from flowers.

They can also fly backward, upside down, and sideways, giving them incredible mobility and aerial agility. Self Maintenance:

Calliope Hummingbirds take great care of their feathers, grooming themselves frequently to keep their feathers clean and in good condition.

They use their bills to preen their feathers, removing any dirt or debris that they may have encountered while foraging. Calliope Hummingbirds also take frequent baths to keep their feathers clean and free of parasites.



Calliope Hummingbirds can be territorial and will defend their territory fiercely against intruders. They will use a variety of agonistic behaviors to protect their feeding and breeding territories, including chasing off other hummingbirds, making aggressive vocalizations, and engaging in physical combat.



During the breeding season, Calliope Hummingbirds will engage in elaborate courtship displays to attract mates. The males will use their colorful plumage and vocalizations to woo females, performing aerial displays and strutting movements.


Calliope Hummingbirds breed in subalpine forests during the spring and summer months. They typically breed from May to August, with peak breeding occurring in June and July.

Males will establish territories and attract females with courtship displays and vocalizations. The female will build the nest, which is small and cup-shaped and typically made from materials like plant fibers, spider silk, and lichen.

The female will lay two tiny eggs, which she will incubate for around 16-18 days. The young hatch as naked, blind, and helpless chicks, and the female will care for them for around three weeks before they fledge.

Demography and Populations

The Calliope Hummingbird population is relatively stable, although it has been declining in some areas due to habitat loss and degradation. The loss of high-altitude meadows and forests can impact the availability of nectar and insects, which can impact the long-term sustainability of Calliope Hummingbird populations.

The bird’s migration patterns can also be affected by climate change and changes in landscape, which can lead to altered breeding and wintering habitats. Continued monitoring of Calliope Hummingbird populations is essential for the long-term sustainability of the species.

In conclusion, the Calliope Hummingbird’s behavior patterns are fascinating and unique, with incredible aerial agility and territorial and sexual behaviors. The breeding patterns and demography of Calliope Hummingbirds are also essential for understanding their range and populations and informing conservation efforts.

By monitoring and protecting Calliope Hummingbird populations, we can help to ensure that these remarkable hummingbirds continue to thrive for generations to come. In conclusion, the Calliope Hummingbird’s body structure, survival strategies, systematics history, habitat and migration patterns, diet, foraging, behavior, breeding, and population demographics have been fascinating topics of study for scientists and bird enthusiasts alike.

The Calliope Hummingbird is a unique bird, known for its high-pitched vocalizations, aerial agility, and tolerance for high-altitude habitats. Threats to the bird’s habitats, including habitat loss and degradation, have made monitoring and protecting Calliope Hummingbird populations important in safeguarding this remarkable species for future generations.

By understanding and appreciating the various aspects of the Calliope Hummingbird’s life, we can better appreciate the complex workings of the natural world and take steps to promote conservation and preservation efforts.

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