Rufous Hummingbird: Glowing, Tiny Toughnecks
By Sarah Levy, Public Affairs Officer for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Post written in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month.
Have you ever heard of an aggressive hummingbird? Meet the rufous hummingbird, a tiny roughneck that casually chases away other hummingbirds, even while migrating. These little guys are bright, even glowing in the right light. They are “rufous” colored, means they typically have reddish-brown feathers. They also have vivid patches of red, green or orange, depending on their sex. Much like other hummingbirds, they feast on nectar and insects, sometime even swiping their prey from spider webs.
The hummingbird played an important role in Aztec culture. These captivating birds represents the sun god Huitzilopotchli, a powerful warrior who guided the Aztecs’ journey to the Valley of Mexico. The story goes that he was born when her mother held a ball of hummingbird feathers to her breast. Hummingbirds, and particularly the feathers, continue to play an important role in Latin American heritage and customs.
Rufous hummingbirds fly nearly 4,000 miles on their migratory routes, traveling between Alaska and northern Canada and Mexico. They journey north on the Pacific Coast in the spring, and return over the Rocky Mountains.
Rufous and other hummingbirds are imperiled by black market trading for their bodies and feathers. Some people believe that hummingbirds have supernatural powers, or can make the owner lucky in love. Fish and Wildlife and other law enforcement are actively cracking down on the international market for dead hummingbirds. You can help us conserve these amazing little creatures by admiring them from afar — and letting these tough guys continue on their migratory journeys.