Costa’s Hummingbird
(Calypte costae)

Costa's Hummingbird

Costa’s hummingbird is a desert dweller. In Utah they can be found only in the Mojave Desert region in the southwestern corner of the state. They breed early, starting in March, to avoid the hottest times during the summer.

Costa’s hummingbird have large heads but are very tiny. It is the only North American hummingbird with long flared extensions on the sides of its gorget that drape down like a big moustache. Its unique gorget and the top of its head flash a shiny metallic violet to purple color when they meet the rays of the sun.

Males perch on tall twigs or plant stems that rise above the deserty landscape of their territories. To defend his territory, he turns towards the rival and flares his colorful gorget. Sometimes he adds a short chip note or a longer whistling call to make his point.

Calliope Hummingbird – Stellula calliope (2) The calliope hummingbird is the smallest bird that breeds in North America. It only measures about 3 inches long and weighs only 1/10 of an ounce (that’s less than a penny). It also has very short tail feathers that do not reach the tips of its folded wings when it perches. This species is also the smallest long-distance migratory bird. Some travel 5,600 miles round-trip each year between their winter and summer homes.

Despite its small size, the calliope hummingbird is a mountain resident able to raise a family in its cool, high-elevation summer breeding habitat. It prefers edges of meadows rimmed with pine trees or canyons with aspen and willow thickets along streams. Some nest in Utah but they are not very common.

The first part of the scientific name of this species, stellula, means “little star.” It refers to the ray-like starburst of sparkling magenta-red feathers that decorate the gorget of males in this species.