Our bird identification guide to Costa's hummingbirds and expert advice about this colorful hummingbird species.
The Costa's hummingbird is living proof that incredible beauty can come in small packages.
This species is the second smallest hummingbird in North America, no more than 3-1/2 inches long with a wingspan of only 4-1/2 inches. That makes it just a wee bit larger than the tiny calliope hummingbird.
The male Costa's is definitely jewel-like, with a shimmering iridescent purple crown and gorget (a fancy word for throat). The brilliant feathers trail down its neck like a "Fu Man-chu" mustache.
Imagine having such a beautiful bird named after you! That's the pride French nobleman and bird collector Louis Marie Pantaleon Costa must have felt when a colleague classifying birds in North America named this species in 1839.
Both the male and the female Costa's are iridescent green on the back and live primarily in the desert during breeding season. The males have extremely large territories compared to other hummingbirds, defending 2 to 4 acres because of limited nectar sources.
To beat the heat, these hummingbirds breed and nest early in the season, from February to June, so they can seek milder climates before extreme desert heat sets in. The males leave first since they don't help build the nest or raise young.
After breeding, these birds share some of the same territories as Anna's hummingbirds, which most always dominate the Costa's because of their larger size.