Stellula calliopecalliope hummingbird

Geographic Range

Calliope hummingbirds (Stellula calliope) are only found in western North America, ranging from Southern Canada to Mexico, depending on the season. They are the smallest known long-distance avian migrant; several records indicate that some individuals complete annual migrations of roughly 9,000 km. From March to August, they can be found in their breeding range in the Northern Rocky Mountains, from British Columbia to Nevada and as far east as Wyoming. They winter in central Mexico, mainly in the southwestern parts of the country. Calliope hummingbirds have occasionally been observed in Louisiana, Alabama, and Florida, outside of their known range and migration routes. However, these observations were rare, suggesting that this might not be a permanent range extension, but rather severe weather influencing their movements temporarily. (Bassett and Doreen, 2009; Calder and Calder, 1994; Newfield, 1984)


Calliope hummingbirds have broad habitat preferences. They are mainly a mountain-dwelling species, generally occurring at elevations from 1,200 meters to the timberline at 3,400 meters; however, this species may breed at elevations as low as 185 meters. Their long migrations take them through a variety of biomes, depending on the distance they migrate from north and south. They can be found in rainforests in their winter range in south central Mexico, however; they can also be found in tundras and taigas in their summer range in southwestern Canada. Between these two extremes, calliope hummingbirds can be found in grasslands, desert and scrub forests, and alpine habitats. (Calder and Calder, 1994)

  • Range elevation
    185 to 3,400 m
    606.96 to ft
  • Average elevation
    2,300 m

Physical Description

Calliope hummingbirds are so unique they are monotypic (the only hummingbird in their genus). All adult calliope hummingbirds have wings that extend to the end of the tail or past the tail when folded back; however, their wings are much shorter than those of closely related species, making a sound similar to a bumblebee when in flight. Their bills consist of a dull black or dusky upper mandible and a lower mandible, which is dusky near the end and brownish towards the bottom. The irises of their eyes are dark brown and their legs and feet are dusky. Calliopes stand out amongst other related hummingbirds, such as rufous hummingbirds, broad-tailed hummingbirds, or Allen's hummingbirds by having a shorter bill and shorter tail, very little rufous (red-brown) in their tail, and a patch of pale buff on their breast rather than on their sides and flanks. Female and immature bumblebee hummingbirds are very similar to calliope hummingbirds, but lack the broad, round ends of the tail feathers. (Tacutu, et al., 2013; Calder and Calder, 1994; Clark, 2011; Lasiewski, 1963)

Male calliope hummingbirds have a metallic bronze-green color on their backs, duller foreheads, and a unique tail morphology. Their inner rectories, tail feathers used in flight, are slightly spade-shaped. All of their rectrices are stiffer than those of most other hummingbirds, and are dull purplish-black or dusky, with a cinnamon-rufous basal edge and tipped with a dull brownish gray color. Their regimes (the feathers of the wing used in flight) are dull brown, slate, or dusky with a purplish gloss. They have distinct, iridescent gorget feathers, which form a star-burst of vibrant metallic purple across the pure white feathers of their chin and throat. This trait contributed to the placement of this species in its own genus. Their necks and chest are white or grayish-white and the rest of their underparts are more grayish. Their under-tails are white with a cinnamon buff towards the anal region. The sides of male calliope hummingbirds are glossed with metallic bronze-green feathers. Immature males look very similar to adult males, except they lack the iridescent gorget feathers. (Tacutu, et al., 2013; Calder and Calder, 1994; Clark, 2011; Lasiewski, 1963)

Female calliope hummingbirds are less vibrant. They have a metallic bronze-green coloration on their backs, but lack the unique tail morphology of the males. Their regimes are brownish slate or dusk, and are faintly glossed with purple. The feathers near their ears are light brownish gray with a triangular space in front of their eyes. Their chins and throats are a dull brownish white, usually streaked or flecked with a dusky or bronzy brownish coloration. Their chests are a pale, grayish cinnamon buff or a dull white. The sides and flanks of female calliope hummingbirds are cinnamon or deep cinnamon buff. Their under-tail is similar, but paler. The femoral tufts on either side of their rump are white. Immature females look very similar to adult females. (Tacutu, et al., 2013; Calder and Calder, 1994; Clark, 2011; Lasiewski, 1963)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes colored or patterned differently
  • male more colorful
  • ornamentation
  • Range mass
    2.5 to 3.3 g
    0.09 to 0.12 oz
  • Average mass
    2.8 g
    0.10 oz
  • Average length
    8 cm
    3.15 in
  • Range wingspan
    39.55 to 42.00 mm
    1.56 to 1.65 in
  • Average basal metabolic rate
    0.0685 cm3.O2/g/hr


Calliope hummingbirds are polygynous, meaning one male mates with multiple females. Males of this species become highly territorial during the mating season. They establish breeding territories near open areas, such as meadows or forest clearings. During the breeding season, they pursue females who venture into their territories. Females respond either by hiding or fleeing. If the male catches the female, she will land somewhere in his territory. He will then exhibit territorial displays such as a shuttle display, which includes a series of diving, buzzing, hovering, chasing, and vocalizing. During the shuttle display, the male erects the iridescent gorget feathers below his chin into a starburst that resembles a flower. While doing this, the male hovers in front of the female and produces a loud buzzing noise. During dives, the male climbs 10 to 30 meters into the air, and then dives down, creating a metallic pzzt-zing sound. Hover displays are conducted about 10 m above ground level. The male gradually descends in steps, alternating in sudden drops up to half a meter and hovering. Male calliope hummingbirds exhibit the buzzing display when a female is perched in his territory. He hovers in front of her and produces loud buzzing sounds. Sometimes during this behavior, the female leaves the perch and joins the male in a circle dance, where both birds spin around in circles, sometimes clasping bills. The diving behavior is usually displayed before the chasing behavior, which involves chasing intruders that enter the territory. Male calliopes will chase conspecifics, other hummingbird species of both sexes, and occasionally bumblebees from their territories. While chasing, males make vocalizations such as chattering noises. They also exhibit these noises when perching or leaving their territories. (Calder and Calder, 1994; Clark, 2011; Tamm, et al., 1989)

The reproductive cycle of calliope hummingbirds is similar to most hummingbirds. Their breeding season lasts from late April to late June. The normal number of eggs in a clutch is two; however, there are reports of females caring for four young in two different nests. The whole reproductive cycle is estimated to last 34 to 38 days, from nest building to fledgling. Incubation takes roughly 15 or 16 days. Once the eggs hatch, the chicks stay in the nest for roughly 18 to 21 days. After this time, they are old enough to feed themselves and leave the nest. Immature calliope hummingbirds do not reach sexual maturity until the spring following their hatching, which is roughly one year. (Batchelder, et al., 2012; Calder and Calder, 1994)

  • Breeding interval
    Calliope hummingbirds breed on once a year.
  • Breeding season
    These hummingbirds breed from April through June.
  • Range eggs per season
    0 to 4
  • Range time to hatching
    15 to 16 days
  • Range fledging age
    18 to 21 days
  • Range time to independence
    3 to 21 days
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    9 to 11 months
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    9 to 11 months

Parental investment in calliope hummingbirds is mainly limited to females. Females are responsible for nest building and egg incubation. Once the eggs hatch, they feed the chicks until they are fledglings and remove the feces from the nest to keep it clean. (Batchelder, et al., 2012; Calder and Calder, 1994)

  • Parental Investment
  • altricial
  • female parental care
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-independence
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female


Little research has been done on the lifespan of calliope hummingbirds in the wild or in captivity. The only documentation of lifespan for this species is two banded females that were captured six years after they were originally banded, and one male that was recaptured five years after initially being banded. No studies have documented their lifespan in captivity. Little is known about their main causes of mortality, but their annual long-distance migration may be physically exhausting and could possibly lead to a decreased lifespan. (Calder and Calder, 1994)

  • Range lifespan
    Status: wild
    5 to 6 years


The behavior of calliope hummingbirds is similar to other hummingbird species. The species is solitary, only interacting with individuals of the same species during mating season. However, calliope hummingbirds and rufous hummingbirds may live in the same range. Calliope hummingbirds have been observed diving or chasing a variety of bird species, from other hummingbirds to larger birds, such as red-tailed hawks. Calliopes make long-distance migrations annually, from their summer range to their winter range and back. They may be found in many locations along their route as they make stops to refuel on nectar. Like most hummingbirds, calliopes are capable of going into torpor; however, they do not engage in a daily torpor. (Calder and Calder, 1994; Martin, 1988)

  • Range territory size
    2000 to 3000 m^2

Home Range

The territory size of male calliope hummingbirds in their summer range is roughly 2,000 to 3,000 square meters. In their summer range, females nest in partially wooded areas near the open areas that the males defend. (Calder and Calder, 1994; Tamm, et al., 1989)

Communication and Perception

Like many hummingbirds, calliope hummingbirds can make a variety of noises, particularly during courtship displays. Research has suggested that both the wing trills and the tail sounds are important courtship signals, as are the visual flight displays exhibited by male calliopes. Males of other hummingbird species have been observed spreading their tail feathers to a female as a visual cue, but there are no reports of similar behaviors in calliope males, further suggesting the tail feathers are not visually important in attracting mates. (Calder and Calder, 1994; Clark, 2011; Hunter and Picman, 2005; Hunter, 2008)

Food Habits

Calliope hummingbirds are nectarivores and insectivores. They feed on insects by hawking, zooming out from a perch to catch an insect in the air. They are known for eating smaller insects such as flies, beetles, ants, bees, and wasps; however, there are few observations of this behavior in nature. Calliope hummingbirds have been known to feed regularly at "sap wells", holes in trees created by sapsuckers. At sap wells, they likely feed on both insects and sap. Hummingbirds feed on nectar by using their long tongues to lick it out of flowers. Calliope hummingbirds are well known for visiting red tubular shaped flowers, although they do feed on white, yellow, blue and purple flowers as well. A few of the flowering plants calliope hummingbirds visit regularly include Indian paintbrushes (Castilleja), beardtongues (Penstemon), columbines (Aquilegia), and larkspurs (Delphinium). (Calder and Calder, 1994; Martin, 1988; Temeles, et al., 2002)

  • Animal Foods
  • insects
  • terrestrial non-insect arthropods
  • Plant Foods
  • nectar
  • sap or other plant fluids


Little is known about either predators or anti-predator adaptations in calliope hummingbirds. There are no reports of successful predation on calliope hummingbirds by any vertebrate or invertebrate species. However, Carolina mantises, which may grow up to 6 cm, have been reported as a possible predator. In this report, an immature calliope hummingbird was observed feeding next to a Carolina mantis; the hummingbird then dropped to the ground with a "whrrr" call and flew away. Although there have been no observations of Carolina mantises preying on calliope hummingbirds, mantises have been observed attacking other hummingbird species. (Shane and Shane, 2007)

Ecosystem Roles

Calliope hummingbirds play a very significant role in the ecosystem as important pollinators of many flowers. They have been known to forage on a variety of flowering plants, especially tubular-shaped flowers. Calliope hummingbirds share a mutualistic relationship with the plants they visit. The hummingbirds benefit from receiving food from the plants, while pollinating the plants at the same time. (Temeles, et al., 2002)

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • pollinates
Mutualist Species
  • Angiosperms

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Calliope hummingbirds can have positive economic impacts on humans by eating invertebrates and by pollinating flowers. They may also be economically important due to eco-tourism in areas where they reside, either in their winter or summer ranges. The majestic beauty of this species could draw attention and research from all over the world by bird and natures lovers. (Calder and Calder, 1994)

  • Positive Impacts
  • ecotourism
  • research and education
  • pollinates crops
  • controls pest population

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known negative effects of calliope hummingbirds on humans.

Conservation Status

The current conservation status of calliope hummingbirds has been listed as 'Least Concern' since 2004. This is based on the IUCN Red List, which focuses on the species range size, population trends, and population size to determine their status. Calliope hummingbirds have a relatively large range. Likewise, their population size is extremely large and their population trends appear to be stable. (BirdLife International, 2013)


Valorie Lyman (author), University of Wyoming, Hayley Lanier (editor), University of Wyoming - Casper, Leila Siciliano Martina (editor), Animal Diversity Web Staff.



living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map


living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

World Map


uses sound to communicate


young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.


Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


an animal that mainly eats meat


Found in coastal areas between 30 and 40 degrees latitude, in areas with a Mediterranean climate. Vegetation is dominated by stands of dense, spiny shrubs with tough (hard or waxy) evergreen leaves. May be maintained by periodic fire. In South America it includes the scrub ecotone between forest and paramo.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

desert or dunes

in deserts low (less than 30 cm per year) and unpredictable rainfall results in landscapes dominated by plants and animals adapted to aridity. Vegetation is typically sparse, though spectacular blooms may occur following rain. Deserts can be cold or warm and daily temperates typically fluctuate. In dune areas vegetation is also sparse and conditions are dry. This is because sand does not hold water well so little is available to plants. In dunes near seas and oceans this is compounded by the influence of salt in the air and soil. Salt limits the ability of plants to take up water through their roots.

  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.

humans benefit economically by promoting tourism that focuses on the appreciation of natural areas or animals. Ecotourism implies that there are existing programs that profit from the appreciation of natural areas or animals.


animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.


An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


makes seasonal movements between breeding and wintering grounds


having the capacity to move from one place to another.


This terrestrial biome includes summits of high mountains, either without vegetation or covered by low, tundra-like vegetation.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


an animal that mainly eats nectar from flowers


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.


having more than one female as a mate at one time


"many forms." A species is polymorphic if its individuals can be divided into two or more easily recognized groups, based on structure, color, or other similar characteristics. The term only applies when the distinct groups can be found in the same area; graded or clinal variation throughout the range of a species (e.g. a north-to-south decrease in size) is not polymorphism. Polymorphic characteristics may be inherited because the differences have a genetic basis, or they may be the result of environmental influences. We do not consider sexual differences (i.e. sexual dimorphism), seasonal changes (e.g. change in fur color), or age-related changes to be polymorphic. Polymorphism in a local population can be an adaptation to prevent density-dependent predation, where predators preferentially prey on the most common morph.


rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Epiphytes and climbing plants are also abundant. Precipitation is typically not limiting, but may be somewhat seasonal.

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

sexual ornamentation

one of the sexes (usually males) has special physical structures used in courting the other sex or fighting the same sex. For example: antlers, elongated tails, special spurs.


lives alone


uses touch to communicate


Coniferous or boreal forest, located in a band across northern North America, Europe, and Asia. This terrestrial biome also occurs at high elevations. Long, cold winters and short, wet summers. Few species of trees are present; these are primarily conifers that grow in dense stands with little undergrowth. Some deciduous trees also may be present.


that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).


Living on the ground.


defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.


A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.


A terrestrial biome with low, shrubby or mat-like vegetation found at extremely high latitudes or elevations, near the limit of plant growth. Soils usually subject to permafrost. Plant diversity is typically low and the growing season is short.


uses sound above the range of human hearing for either navigation or communication or both


uses sight to communicate


2013. "Calliope Hummingbird" (On-line). National Audubon Society. Accessed November 13, 2013 at

Bassett, F., C. Doreen. 2009. Wintering hummingbirds in Alabama and Florida: species diversity, sex and age ratios, and site fidelity. Journal of Field Ornithology, 80/2: 154-162.

Batchelder, N., G. Batchelder, D. Livezey, J. Marks. 2012. Simultaneous multiple nests of Calliope Hummingbird and Rufous Hummingbird. The Wilson Journal of Ornithology, 124/3: 640-643.

BirdLife International, 2013. "Stellula calliope" (On-line). IUCN 2013. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Accessed November 13, 2013 at

Calder, W., L. Calder. 1994. "Calliope Hummingbird (Selasphorus calliope)" (On-line). The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Accessed November 13, 2013 at

Clark, C. 2011. Wing, tail, and vocal contributions to the complex acoustic signals of courting Calliope hummingbirds. Current Zoology, 57/2: 187-196.

Dunn, J., J. Alderfer. 2011. Field Guide to the Birds of North America. Book Division: National Geographic Society.

Hunter, T. 2008. On the role of wing sounds in hummingbird communication. The Auk, 125/3: 532-541.

Hunter, T., J. Picman. 2005. Characteristics of the wing sounds of four hummingbird species that breed in Canada. The Condor, 107/3: 570-582.

Lasiewski, R. 1963. Oxygen consumption of torpid, resting, active, and flying hummingbirds. Physiological Zoology, 36/2: 122-140.

Martin, J. 1988. Different feeding strategies of two sympatric hummingbird species. The Condor, 90/1: 233-236.

Newfield, N. 1984. Three records of Calliope Hummingbird from Louisiana. The Condor, 86/3: 346-348.

Shane, T., S. Shane. 2007. Predator avoidance behavior by the Calliope Hummingbird. Kansas Ornithological Society, 58/1: 11.

Tacutu, R., T. Craig, A. Budovsky, D. Wuttke, G. Lehmann, D. Taranukha, J. Costa, V. Fraifeld, J. de Magalhaes. 2013. "AnAge entry for Stellula calliope" (On-line). AnAge: Animal Ageing and Longevity Databse. Accessed November 13, 2013 at

Tamm, S., D. Armstrong, Z. Tooze. 1989. Display behavior of male Calliope Hummingbirds during the breeding season. The Condor, 91/2: 272-279.

Temeles, E., Y. Linhart, M. Masonjones, H. Masonjones. 2002. The role of flower width in hummingbird bill length-flower length relationships. Biotropica, 34/1: 68-80.