Common Name

Scientific Name

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Photo by Stephen L. Carr
Photo Copyright Stephen L. Carr

Weighing just 2.5 grams (less than one ounce!), the calliope hummingbird, Stellula calliope, is the smallest breeding bird in North America. Despite its small size, it breeds in chilly montane areas of the Great Basin, eastern and northern California, the Pacific northwest, southwestern Alberta, and southern British Columbia. The species breeds in Utah and is an uncommon summer resident in mountainous areas throughout the state.

In addition to being the smallest breeding bird in North America, the calliope hummingbird is also the smallest long-distant migrant bird in the world. It is estimated that some individuals travel as far as 9,000 km (5,600 miles) in a year. Calliope hummingbirds migrate individually from their breeding grounds southward through mountainous areas to their wintering grounds in Mexico.

The calliope hummingbird feeds on the nectar of flowers, as well as on insects, spiders, and tree sap. Like other hummingbirds, it feeds on nectar while hovering in flight. When feeding on insects, however, it will perch on a small branch and rush forth to capture its prey. The calliope hummingbird breeds in open forests, meadows, and canyons in high mountains, often along streams. Males will mate with more than one female. Each female then builds a small cup-shaped nest in a well camouflaged area, generally underneath an overhanging branch of a conifer tree. The female is solely responsible for the two eggs during the two week incubation period. Young are born blind, immobile, and without down. The mother alone feeds the young until they leave the nest, about three weeks after hatching.


  • Ehrlich, P. R., D. S. Dobkin, and D. Wheye. 1988. The birderís handbook[:] a field guide to the natural history of North American birds. Simon & Schuster, New York. xxx + 785 pp.

  • Hayward, C. L., Cottam, C., Woodbury, A. M., and H. H. Frost. 1976. Birds of Utah. In Great Basin Naturalist Memoirs, No. 1 (Wood, S. L. and K. T. Harper, eds.). Brigham Young University, Provo, UT.

  • Calder, W. A., and L. L. Calder. 1994. Calliope Hummingbird (Stellula calliope). Birds of North America 135.