Calliope Hummingbird – A Guide to Identification and Characteristics

The Calliope Hummingbird (Selasphorus calliope) is a unique hummingbird species renowned for its minuscule size, captivating hovering flight, and gleaming feathered coating. They are a much-loved and intriguing type of bird and stand out amongst the many other species.

It is the smallest bird species in the United States and Canada, measuring only about 3 inches long. Despite its size, this bird is known for its remarkable agility and speed, capable of beating its wings up to 80 times per second during courtship displays.

I’ll explore the fascinating world of the Calliope Hummingbird, including its physical characteristics, behavior, habitat, and conservation status. Whether you’re a seasoned birder or simply curious about the natural world, this diminutive bird will capture your imagination.

Size and Identification of a Calliope Hummingbird

This hummingbird species has a bill curved downwards, slightly longer than its counterparts. The male of the species is distinguished by its regal, iridescent gorget (throat patch) that reflects a vivid magenta-red hue when illuminated.

A thin white line edges this gorget, and the rest of the body is a matte greenish-gray. Females lack the male’s gorget and instead exhibit a more muted color palette of grayish-brown on the head, back, wings, and a light-colored belly.

Scientific Name

The scientific name for the Calliope Hummingbird is Selasphorus calliope, the smallest in North America. This hummingbird is found in the western United States, from central and west California to southwestern Canada.


Calliope Hummingbird is a small hummingbird measuring 3-3.5 inches long. They are one of the smallest birds in the world, with males generally being slightly larger than females.


This Hummingbird is one of the smallest and highest-altitude hummingbirds in the world. It has average wingspans ranging from 4.1 to 4.3 inches, making it the smallest hummingbird species in North America.


The average weight of a Calliope Hummingbird is between 2.3-3.4 grams, making them the smallest bird species in North America. However, the actual weight of an individual Calliope hummingbird can vary depending on the time of year and the bird’s overall health.

The Characteristics and Coloration of a Calliope Hummingbird

With their distinct coloration and unique characteristics, these tiny birds capture the attention of anyone lucky enough to spot them. Despite their small size, these birds are often highly skilled and nimble in their movements, making them an impressive sight.


Calliope Hummingbirds are renowned for their energetic behavior, with a wingbeat frequency of up to 80 beats per second. These birds can maintain static flight and fly in any direction, even upside down.

Despite their small stature, they demonstrate a highly territorial attitude, actively defending their feeding and breeding grounds from other hummingbirds and small birds.


The male Calliope Hummingbird is known for its striking coloration, which includes iridescent green feathers on its back and head, with a distinctive purple-red throat patch that extends down the sides of its neck. They also have white breasts and bellies, dark wings, and tail feathers.

On the other hand, the female Calliope Hummingbird is less colorful than the male, with a muted green color on its back and head and a white breast and belly. The female also lacks the distinctive throat patch found on the male.

Breeding Areas of Calliope Hummingbird

It inhabits a broad region from southern Alaska to central Mexico, within the western mountains of North America. Its favored habitats are alpine meadows and forests, where it can access the essential nectar and insects which power its fast metabolism.

During the breeding season, the male Calliope Hummingbird puts on an impressive show of courtship, hovering before the female and beating his wings rapidly to generate an unmistakable buzzing sound.

The female selects a mate and constructs a cup-shaped nest of plant fibers, spiderwebs, and lichens, laying two white eggs which hatch after sixteen to eighteen days. The chicks remain in the nest for three weeks before they take off and usually migrate away from the breeding area towards autumn.

Is It Easy to Capture Photos of Calliope Hummingbirds?

It can be arduous to photograph Calliope Hummingbirds successfully due to their diminutive size and swift, random movements. Photographers must be patient and dogged to acquire impressive pictures of these minute birds.

An expeditious shutter speed and long lens are recommended to effectively portray the bird’s speed and size. Additionally, a thorough knowledge of the bird’s behavior and habitat can improve the chances of getting quality shots.

Photographers should strive to capture the bird in motion to highlight the hummingbird’s hovering and flight capabilities. With the right gear, technique, and some luck, photographers can take remarkable and hard-to-find photographs of these avians.

Dietary Habits of Calliope Hummingbirds

Calliope Hummingbirds are known for their exceptional flying abilities, unique coloration, and interesting dietary habits. These tiny creatures require incredibly high energy to sustain their fast metabolism and active lifestyle.


One of the primary dietary sources of Calliope Hummingbirds is nectar. They consume nectar from various flowering plants, including wildflowers, shrubs, and trees.

They use their long, narrow bills to extract the nectar from the flowers. This nectar provides the birds with a rich source of carbohydrates, which is essential for their high metabolism.


In addition to nectar, Calliope Hummingbirds also consume insects. They feed on small insects such as gnats, mosquitoes, and flies. They catch these insects mid-air, using their long beaks to snatch them out of the air.

This protein-rich diet is essential for their growth and development, especially during the breeding season.


Calliope Hummingbirds also consume sap, the sugary fluid in trees. They use their beaks to create holes in the bark of trees and drink the sap that oozes out. While sap is not a significant nutrition source, it provides the birds with additional carbohydrates and sugars.

Exploring the Remarkable Characteristics of the Hummingbird

Do Calliope Hummingbirds Drink Warm Sugar Water or Should it be Cold?

When it comes to hummingbird hydration and warm sugar water, the ideal temperature is room temperature or slightly warm. Calliope hummingbirds, like other hummingbird species, prefer nectar that resembles the natural temperature of flowers. Providing them with cold sugar water might discourage their feeding behavior. Thus, it is recommended to offer these delicate creatures sugar water at a comfortable, warm temperature.


The Calliope Hummingbird is a fascinating and stunning bird that never ceases to amaze bird enthusiasts and researchers alike. It’s small size and unique characteristics make it easily identifiable, while its vibrant coloration and iridescent feathers make it a standout species.

Breeding areas for the Calliope Hummingbird are found in western North America, including the western United States and Canadian mountains. They can be challenging to photograph due to their small size and quick movements.

Regarding dietary habits, the Calliope Hummingbird feeds primarily on nectar, supplemented with insects and sap. This makes them important pollinators and a vital part of the ecosystem in which they live.



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