Hummingbird w Flower 512x219

Travelling from as far south as Mexico, three species of hummingbirds find their way to the Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge for the breeding season during the spring and summer months.

  • Black-chinned Hummingbird

    Black-chinned Hummingbird 150x118

    (Archilochus alexandri)

    Weight: 3.3 grams; female>male


          Adult male: Above dull metallic bronze-green, remiges (flight feathers) dark brownish slate, faintly glossed with purplish; tail bronzy purplish black; chin, upper throat, and sides of throat velvety black; lower throat metallic violet.

          Adult female: Above dull metallic bronze-green, regimes dark brownish slate or dusky, faintly glossed with purplish; tail bronzish-green with subterminal portion black, three outer rectrices (tail feathers) on each side tipped with white; underparts dull white with throat sometimes streaked with dusky.

    Habitats: Breed in areas of deciduous trees along stream bottoms or irrigated orchards.  Some of the associated trees include willows, cottonwoods, alders, and sycamores.

    Breeding Biology: The sexes migrate separately in the spring, with males arriving in advance.  Black-chins establish 3 kinds of territories: 1) female nesting preserve that includes a nest site, perches, a roost site and feeding site; 2) mating area; 3) male feeding preserve that includes guarding perches, feeding site, and a roost.

    The male's aerial display begins when the females arrive.  It consists of a series of long, swooping, pendulum-like maneuvers about 30 meters in length, with the male passing very close to the female at the bottom of the arch, ending about 5 meters higher; sometimes in the form of a narrow horizontal figure eight and is accompanied by a loud whistling sound made by the wings or tail.

    It takes the female about 5 days from the start of nest construction to the laying of the first egg.  Eggs are usually laid 1-2 days apart.  Nests are usually 1-3 meters above ground and often overhang small or dry creek beds.  Incubation is done by the female and is estimated to take 13 to 16 days.  The young fledge about 21 days after hatching.  Double-brooding may be fairly frequent in black-chins.

  • Calliope Hummingbird

    Calliope Male 150x118

    (Selasphorus calliope)

    Weight: 2.7 grams; female>male (smallest bird in North America; smallest long-distance avian migrant in the world)


        Adult male: Above metallic bronze-green, feathers of gorget (throat) are streaked with elongated metallic reddish purple feathers.  

         Adult female: Green upperparts with dull whitish throat and whitish or cinnamon-buff chest and belly.  Throat may be streaked or flecked with dusky or bronzy brownish color.

    Habitats: Open montane forest and mountain meadows with willow and alder thickets.  Males typically found in open areas, whereas females nest in woods of mixed brushland and forest.  This species occupies a broad vertical range during breeding season.  Have been found breeding at elevations as low as 180 meters above sea level and as high as 3500 meters!

    Breeding Biology: Males usually establish territories as soon as they arrive at their breeding grounds and these territorial disputes may continue until late July when hatching occurs.  The male's aerial display consists of a series of swooping flights along a U-shaped course, 7 to 9 meters across and begin from a height of 9 to 18 meters high.  The male may perform a "hover display" in front of and slightly above the female and produce a loud buzzing sound.

    Calliope nests are typically located below a larger branch on a small branch with small knots or cones on it.  Often the tree is a conifer and the nest is placed anywhere from 50cm above ground to 21 meters.  Nests are usually close to a body of water.  Nests are constructed of bits of tree bark, cone shreds, mosses, lichen, needles, spider webbing and other camouflage.  Female calliopes often use the same nest site in subsequent years and a series of two-three- and four-story nests have been reported.

    Incubation lasts about 16 days.  Some evidence shows that incubating females do not become torpid at night, but rely on the food collected throughout the day to maintain the body metabolism for the 8-9 hour period of nocturnal fasting.  The total nesting period (egg-laying to fledging) is about 34 to 38 days.

  • Rufous Hummingbird

    Rufous Hummingbird perched

    (Selasphorus rufus)

    Weight: 3.32 grams; female>male


        Adult male: The pileum (crown) is a dull metallic bronze or bronze-green with the rest of the upperparts a plain cinnamon-rufous color.  The back can sometimes be a metallic bronze-green with remiges (flight feathers) dusky colored, faintly glossed with purplish.  The chin and throat are a brilliant metallic scarlet, changing to a golden green with changes in position.  Chest is white, transitioning into a cinnamon-rufous on the rest of the underparts.

       Adult female:  The upperparts are a metallic bronze-green with dark brownish slate remiges that are faintly glossed with purplish.  Retrices (tail feathers) are a metallic bronze-green with some cinnamon-rufous coloring and the terminal portion purplish black.  The 3 outer pairs are broadly tipped with white.  The chin, throat, and chest area  dull white, with the throat having some tips of metallic orange-red feathers.  Rest of underparts are cinnamon-rufous, fading into a dull buffy white on breast and abdomen.


    Rufous hummingbirds occupy a variety of habitats.  During migration they can be found in lowland stream bottoms, heavy chaparral, mountain ridges at timberline, seacoasts, and urban gardens.  Coniferous forest habitats are the primary nesting area.  They forage on a wide array of flowers.

    Breeding Biology:

    Males establish territories several weeks in advance of the females.  They have a display flight that comprises of a complete oval.  In the downswing, the bird produces a mechanical sound starting with an exaggerated wing buzz, followed by a staccato whining note, and ending with a rattle.  Nests are built in a variety of locations from near ground blackberry bushes to 15 meters above ground in a tall fir tree.  Nest heights may vary from location to location, depending on microclimates, but most nests are placed between 2-5 meters above ground.  Drooping branches of conifers are a favored location, with the nest often on the lowest branch having a sharp downward bend.  The nests can be camouflaged with lichens and lined with willow down.  Renesting has been apparent with a group of three nests stacked on top of one another!

    Eggs are thought to be laid between April-July, with May most likely being the peak of the season.  No good estimates of incubation periods have been observed.  The female incubates the eggs almost constantly and is only off the nest no more than 20 minutes. The total nestling period is approximately 20 days.