Rufous Announces Spring – Nature Notes from the Steamboat Peninsula

Another seasonal first: that distinctive, loud toy-like buzz of a RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD zipping around a feeder on Steamboat Peninsula this week. Despite its 3 1/2 inch size (one whole ounce), these birds are described as “tenacious, pugnacious . . . aggressively defending its territory” even against much larger birds. Maybe it’s the brilliant coppery iridescence of the male’s upper parts, or his also iridescent scarlet-red throat (flashed to further assert his presence) that encourage such bravado. In the rare event of my feeder being empty, these fellows glare in at my kitchen window, wings buzzing loudly, beaks all but touching the glass. No translation necessary.

Bravado indeed: They migrate mainly to the highlands of Mexico, with some wintering along California’s southern¬† coast or along the Gulf Coast. Considered an early migrant, Rufous moves north as early as February, heading as far as southeastern Alaska to breed. By August, their migration all the way back to Mexico begins.

Besides garden feeders, they seek food in a variey of flowering plants and trees, some spiders and insects.

Whether hovering, floating, flashing, buzzing or demanding food service, Rufous is welcome at my place any time, especially when announcing Spring.

Speaking of hummingbirds, I came across a list of their names.  These are real names, like Rufous Hummingbird, although many of them sound more like descriptions of jewels, fairy tale characters or just plain flights of fancy. Although most of these birds live far away, like the tropics, their beautifully feathered cousins right here on Steamboat Island stand well in their stead.

Some hummingbird names to savor:

Green-crowned Woodnymph
Blue-throated Goldentail
Glowing Puffleg
Royal Sunangel
Booted Racquet-tail
Sparkling-tailed Woodstar
Marvelous Spatuletail
Hairy Hermit
Fire-throated Metaltail
Golden Starfrontlet
Velvet-purple Coronet
Blue-tailed Emerald
Green-throated Mountain-gem
Golden-tailed Saphire
Velvet-browed Brilliant
Frilled Coquette
Brazilian Ruby
Crimson Topaz

And there are hundreds more.

– Diane Wiley

Nature Notes from the Steamboat Peninsula is a new series appearing here, noting and enjoying some of what nature and her admirers are up to in our neighborhood. If you have suggestions for topics – or even an entire article you would like see published here, please email And, as always, feel free to leave a comment.


Posted in Nature Notes from the Steamboat Peninsula.

One Comment

  1. Thanks for writing this Diane! I actually have both Anna’s hummers and the Rufous fighting over the feeders. It’s been extremely entertaining to watch the “buzz”. I imagine the Anna’s will move on shortly.

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