Our bird identification guide to Rufous hummingbirds and expert advice about this colorful hummingbird species.
Rufous hummingbirds are pretty remarkable. The male rufous is the only North American hummingbird with reddish-brown feathers covering its entire back and much of its head and tail (thus the name "rufous," which means reddish).
It also sports green wings and an orange-red iridescent throat that sparkles like burnished gold in the right light. The female has little of the namesake rufous coloring, however. Instead, it has green feathers on its back, head and tail with an orange-red spot on its throat.
The rufous inhabits a summer range that's farther north than any other hummingbird. It nests from Oregon and Idaho to southern areas of Alaska and the Yukon.
But you don't have to live in the Northwest to spot one of these brilliant birds. Rufous hummingbirds migrate through most western states. They follow a coastal route northward in spring, then fly over the Rocky Mountains in fall.
They're also one of the most common vagrants, sometimes drifting off course during southern migration. They've showed up in just about every state and province, even spending winter in some southern states.
Most hummingbirds are aggressive, but the rufous becomes especially territorial when defending temporary feeding areas during migration "pit stops" or when nesting. No creature is safe from attack, whether it's larger birds like blackbirds and thrushes, or critters like chipmunks.