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Rufous Hummingbird

Selasphorus rufus

Length: 3.75 inches Wingspan: 4.75 inches Seasonality: Rare Visitor
ID Keys: Males bright rufous above, dark reddish throat.  Females have green upperparts, a spotted throat, and a rufous wash on their sides.

Rufous Hummingbird - Selasphorus rufusOne of the most widespread breeders of the North American hummingbirds, they can be found in summer from southern Alaska down through the northwestern United States.  Very aggressive, they often will dominate other hummingbirds, and will even chase away larger birds and small rodents away from their preferred feeding locations.  Of all the western hummingbirds, the Rufous is the one most likely to wander far to the east during migration, and every year, a few are reported wintering in the southeastern United States.


Breeds around forest edges and clearing, both near the coast and in the western mountains of the U.S. and Canada.  They can be found in nearly any habitat during migration.


 Feeds primarily on nectar. Also will feed on tiny insects, and will drink sap from holes created by sapsuckers.


Non-breeder in South Dakota. On their breeding grounds, Rufous Hummingbirds will build their nest in either a conifer or deciduous tree, placed on a well protected/hidden horizontal branch, from 5 to 30 feet from the ground. The female builds the nest, constructing a small cup of plant down and spiders webs, camouflaged on the outside with lichens and bits of moss. She lays two eggs, and she alone incubates them. The young hatch after 14-16 days, and fledge from the nest after another 14-16 days.


Vocalizations of a Rufous Hummingbird include a musical chip and repeated buzzy chattering. A buzzy trilling is also given off from males in flight, particularly when they make their J-shaped courtship flights.


Summers from the northwestern United States, through western Canada, and up to southern Alaska.  Winters in southern Mexico.  Rufous Hummingbirds are one western species that does occasionally wander widely, with eastern records occurring regularly. There are numerous records of wandering Rufous Hummingbirds in South Dakota, most from the Black Hills.

Interactive eBird Map:

Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Rufous Hummingbird sightings

Similar Species:

There are multiple hummingbird species that are found within the range of the Rufous Hummingbird that could cause identification challenges. Here are the species most likely to be confused with a Rufous Hummingbird, with identification keys:

Allen's Hummingbird - Amazilia rutila Calliope Hummingbird - Stellula calliope Broad-tailed Hummingbird - Selasphorus platycercus Broad-tailed Hummingbird - Selasphorus platycercus
Allen's Hummingbird Calliope Hummingbird Broad-tailed Hummingbird Broad-tailed Hummingbird


Will attend hummingbird feeders for sugar water.

Conservation Status:

Systematic surveys consistently show population declines in recent decades, with the cause of the decline not fully understood. While they are found across a broad geographic area and are still relatively common in parts of that area, in 2018, the IUCN considered threats to the species to be substantial enough to list the Rufous Hummingbird as a "Near Threatened" species.

Further Information:

Photo Information:

August 6th, 2013 - Cannon Beach, Oregon -- Terry Sohl

Additional Photos:

Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Rufous Hummingbird photos.

Audio File Credits:

Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Rufous Hummingbird - Selasphorus rufus - Range map
South Dakota Status: Rare visitor, primarily in the fall in the western part of the state.

Additional Rufous Hummingbird Photos
Click for a higher-resolution version of these photos
 Rufous Hummingbird 1 - Selasphorus rufusRufous Hummingbird 2 - Selasphorus rufusRufous Hummingbird 3 - Selasphorus rufusRufous Hummingbird 4 - Selasphorus rufusRufous Hummingbird 5 - Selasphorus rufusRufous Hummingbird 6 - Selasphorus rufusRufous Hummingbird 7 - Selasphorus rufusRufous Hummingbird 8 - Selasphorus rufusRufous Hummingbird 9 - Selasphorus rufusRufous Hummingbird 10 - Selasphorus rufusRufous Hummingbird 11 - Selasphorus rufusRufous Hummingbird 12 - Selasphorus rufusRufous Hummingbird 13 - Selasphorus rufusRufous Hummingbird 14 - Selasphorus rufusRufous Hummingbird 15 - Selasphorus rufusRufous Hummingbird 16 - Selasphorus rufusRufous Hummingbird 17 - Selasphorus rufusRufous Hummingbird 18 - Selasphorus rufus