Rich, rusty brown feathers and a flaming gorget set the 3-3/4-inch-long male rufous hummingbird apart from all other hummingbirds. Green-backed females don a more subdued plumage, but members of both sexes challenge interlopers with a mechanical-sounding chp, chp, chp. These birds call the Pacific Northwest and northern Rockies up into Alaska home.
Males assert their territorial claims soon after their mid-February arrival on the breeding grounds by means of a “O”-shaped or “J”-shaped display. Several females may visit the display area in succession and the ardent male tries hard to impress every one.
For her part, the female constructs the nest of plant downs held fast with spider webs. The outside is decorated with lichens, mosses, and bark fragments. Breeding continues until late spring.
The rufous is a vagabond among hummingbirds. Southward migration begins in early summer and continues until early fall. The majority of the population enjoys the ambiance of the mountains of Mexico, but sizeable numbers spend their nonbreeding months in the southeastern U.S. Records exist for nearly all eastern states.