Small hummingbird a brilliant sight

Published May 22, 2013 at 05:00AM

Scientific name: Stellula calliope

Characteristics: At 3¼ inches long, this is the smallest bird north of the Mexican border. Adults are iridescent green on their backs and lighter underneath. Males have pinkish-red gorget streaks on their throats and light green flanks. Females lack the gorget, but have green throat spots and peach-colored flanks.

Breeding: Builds a small, cup-shaped nest made of moss, plant fiber, shredded bark, lichens and spider silk atop a small branch; may build a nest atop an older nest. Female incubates one to two eggs for 16 days.

Range: Breeds throughout the Pacific Northwest and California; winters south into central Mexico.

Habitat: Found in open mountain forests, riparian thickets or mountain meadows.

Food: Feeds on flower nectar, spiders, insects and tree sap. Also visits hummingbird feeders.

Comments: Stellula means “small star,” in reference to the size and brilliance of this species. The male’s gorget (the iridescent area on the chin) resembles streaks of dripping candle wax from the bill’s base. Males depart on their southern migration while the female is still incubating. Their annual migration may cover up to 5,000 miles.

Current viewing: Shevlin Park downstream of Aspen Hall, and Camp Polk Meadow, Calliope Crossing and Black Butte Swamp in Sisters.

— Damian Fagan is a volunteer with the East Cascades Audubon Society, and a Central Oregon Community College Community Learning instructor. He can be reached at damian.fagan@hotmail.com.

Sources: Oregon Department of Wildlife Resources and The Birder’s Handbook by P.R. Ehrlich, D.S. Dobkin and D. Wheye

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