Calypte costaeCosta's hummingbird

Geographic Range

Calypte costae is commonly found in the far west region of the United States and Mexico with a northern limit of central California and a southern limit of central Mexico. However, there have been reports of C. costae in Alaska, Kansas, and the southern tip of Mexico (Baltosser 1989, 1996).


Calypte costae is found in primarily desert-like habitats. An arid climate is preferred, with plants such as the Joshua tree (Yucca brevifolia) and cholla cactus (Opuntia acanthocarpa). However, when nectar is in short supply, C. costae will leave the desert in search of food.(Baltosser 1989, 1996; Mallette 1990).

Physical Description

With a length of 7.62 cm, C. costae is the second smallest North American species of hummingbird. The back and head of C. costae are an iridescent green. Adult males possess a flared throat patch, both this gorget and their crown are a brilliant metallic purple. Adult females are recognizable by a small tuft of violet feathers in the center of the throat, however, only about half possess this; the throats of the remainder are completely white. In both sexes, the bill is dull black, the iris of the eye is dark brown to black, and the legs and feet are also dark brown to black. Young C. costae gain mature appearance by the age of one year (Mallette 1990; Baltosser 1996).

  • Average mass
    3 g
    0.11 oz
  • Average mass
    3.1 g
    0.11 oz


The breeding season of C. costae varies with latitude and habitat, but always takes place between the months of January and May. Males and females do not pair, their only interaction is that of mating. Males arrive at breeding sites about one week before females and their flight displays begin 1-3 weeks before the first clutch is laid.

Nest-building is by the females and takes place immediately before a nesting attempt and is completed within 4-5 days. Nests are located in shrubs or trees and are usually found 1-2 m above the ground, this also varying with habitat. Nests usually have a diameter of about 3-5 cm and a height of 2-4 cm.

Clutches consist of two eggs. The first of the eggs is laid within 1-2 days of nest completion, the second is laid two days after the first. Incubation period is 15-18 days, hatching of the eggs is staggered. Mothers feed their young by regurgitation, this continues even after the birds have left the nest (in about 20-23 days) until they are able to fill their own nutritional needs (about one week). Young reach sexual maturity during first year and take part in the next breeding season. Two broods in one season are uncommon (Mallette 1990; Baltosser 1996).

  • Average eggs per season
  • Average time to hatching
    16 days



Calypte costae is a mobile species. Solitary during most of its life, it migrates when nectar becomes depleted or temperatures become intolerable. Females vocalize frequently, indicating food sources, prey, enemies, and mating rituals. Males seldom call, except when alarmed or during a courtship display. Both sexes' calls are very high pitched and distinctive. Offensive behavior towards predators (e.g. snakes, birds, humans) includes a rapid plunge at the predator and elaborate flight displays.

During the breeding season, males use an aerial display of broad loops to self-advertise to females. This display is accompanied by a whistle each time the male dives from the top of its loop. Females observe this display and often respond with a burst of twitters. If receptive, the female becomes the object of short darting flights by the male, ending in copulation (Baltosser 1996).

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

Calypte costae is an omnivore, though it feeds mainly on nectar from flowers. The hummingbird recieves this nectar from traditional hummingbird flowers (these plants produce 2-5 mg sucrose-equivalent sugar/flower/day), such as the desert honeysuckle (Anisacanthus thurberi) and the barestem larkspur (Delphinium scaposum), and also from tiny desert lavender flowers (Hyptis emoryi) and huge saguaro flowers (Cereus giganteus). To satisfy protein needs (about 4.5 mg nitrogen/day), C. costae also feeds on small insects by fly-catching or gleaning from leaves, branches, or tree trunks (Baltosser 1996).

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Hummingbirds aid in the pollination of several species of plants. Calypte costae, in particular, provides a method of pollination for various desert plants and cacti (Baltosser 1996).

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Unknown, if any.

Conservation Status

The most dangerous threat facing C. costae today is the destruction of its native habitat. Humans have all but eliminated the hummingbird's breeding ground (coastal scrub) with urban and residential development. Agriculture, exotic grasses, and cattle-grazing have also depleted many sources of food for C. costae. Hummingbird feeders and exotic plants, an accepted solution to the lack of nectar available, do not provide enough nutrition to C. costae, as it is often outcompeted by larger hummingbird species (Baltosser 1996).

Other Comments

Calypte costae prefers red flowers.

When making the nest, female C. costae will often use spider webs to secure the materials together.

Calypte costae takes its name from a French nobleman, Louis Marie Pantaleon Costa.

(Mallette 1990; Indianapolis Zoo 2001)


Beth Copron (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Phil Myers (editor), Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



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


uses sound to communicate

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.


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.


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.


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


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).


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

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


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

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.


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


uses touch to communicate


uses sight to communicate


Baltosser, W. 1989. Costa's Hummingbird: Its Distribution and Status. Western Birds, 20: 41-62.

Baltosser, W., P. Scott. 1996. Costa's Hummingbird. The Birds of North America, 251: 1-32.

Indianapolis Zoo, "Costas Hummingbird" (On-line). Accessed March 23, 2001 at

Mallette, B. 1990. Helicopters of the Bird World. Outdoor California, November-December: 14-17.