Naturespeak 

Rufous Hummingbird

Selasphorus rufus

The annual arrival of one of Whistler's most beloved birds, the Rufous Hummingbird, signals the end of winter. The males start arriving in late March and early April, and females follow soon after.

Hummingbirds feed on nectar and insects and are easily attracted to sugar water feeders. Females select males that have defended the richest feeding areas, and males will defend the feeding areas against all comers. Completely fearless, the Rufous "Hummer" will attack other birds, even bears and people who invade their territory.

The brilliantly plumaged male tirelessly courts the perched female with a spectacular aerial display. A steep 30 metre dive ends in an abrupt flare-out accompanied by a ripping sound made by the wings. The female rarely seems impressed by the display, and must contend with the male's attention at every feeding trip.

About the time the young are hatched, flowers are blooming in the higher elevations, and males abandon the valley bottom to take advantage of the alpine bonanza. During fall migration, Rufous Hummingbirds are known to use high alpine meadows as refuelling stops, and they need fuel often.

Relative to body length, this "extreme" bird undertakes the longest migration of any bird in the world. They breed as far north as Alaska, and winter in Mexico. Individuals are known to return to the exact location of a predictable food source each spring.

To prevent disease transmission, clean feeders regularly, and use only clean water and white granulated sugar. Completely dissolve 1 part white sugar in 3 to 4 parts water. The colour of the feeder alone is more than enough to catch the sharp eye of the Rufous Hummingbird. Commercial nectar solutions with red dye are not necessary and potentially harmful.

Upcoming events

It's time to start thinking about setting up bat houses for the spring arrival of the little flying mammals. If you are interested in building a bat house, call or e-mail Stéphane to obtain handypersonbuilding plans. stéphane@telus.net or 604-938-0945.

Calling all Aspiring Nature Writers – Have an interest in natural history? Want to educate others about your favourite flora and/or fauna? Write your very own Naturespeak article. For more information contact April McCrum at 604-932-0919 or aprilmccrum@yahoo.ca .

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