NEWS RELEASE: Rufous Hummingbird — Conserving the West’s most imperiled hummingbird

BOULDER, CO, November 12, 2020 – The Rufous Hummingbird is a flying jewel. The male, a rich chestnut, sports a flaming red throat. Measuring just 3 inches and weighing in at around 3 grams, it migrates as many as two thousand miles. Its travels often take it across two international borders between nesting and wintering sites from Canada to Mexico. Since the 1970s, its numbers have fallen by as much as 60%, and conservationists suspect that its peregrinations may expose it to threats that contribute to its steep population decline. A new report published by the Western Hummingbird Partnership, “Rufous Hummingbird: State of the Science and Conservation,” illuminates in colorful images and graphics the biology and ecology of this tiny dynamo and highlights the many gaps in information that impede our ability to effectively protect it.

Like many species, Rufous Hummingbirds can benefit from fire and other forest disturbances that open up habitats to sunlight and the emergence of the nectar-producing plants they need. Post-disturbance restoration that focuses on native nectar-producing plants can maximize benefits for this energy-consuming dynamo.

“We took a species-specific look at the conservation issues that Rufous Hummingbirds face across their migratory range. Considering hummingbird biology, habitats, interrelated food resource and pollination issues, land use threats, fire, and climate, it is clear that we need to take action that is informed by an understanding of the full lifecycle natural history of this species,” stated Dr. John Alexander, Director of the Klamath Bird Observatory in Oregon and a lead author of the publication. Dr. Ken Rosenberg (Cornell Lab of Ornithology), who is leading international efforts to identify causes of North American bird population declines, said that “Western Hummingbird Partnership and this new document represent the kind of coordinated and targeted efforts that we need to guide both science and conservation actions for the recovery of species on the brink, such as the Rufous Hummingbird.”

Rufous Hummingbird (c) Jim Livaudais cropped flipped (72ppi 4x)Hummingbirds face many threats including herbicides and insecticides, that when used on crops, may have direct health effects on Rufous and other hummingbirds. Incompatible grazing, urban and rural development, and the invasion of non-native plants result in the loss of native flowers that hummingbirds need. Research also shows that a changing climate and earlier springs are causing advanced flowering. Migratory hummingbirds depend on flowering plants throughout their journeys, and if the timing of their movements is not aligned with the availability of nectar, their capacity to nest successfully, fly long distances, and even survive may be jeopardized.

The magic of the Rufous Hummingbird is that it joins conservation efforts among three countries- Canada, the United States, and Mexico – through its migrations, reaching latitudes farther north than any other hummingbird. In late summer, Rufous migrates south and remains in Mexico for several months. It has been classified as the longest journey made by a bird in relation to its body size. The Western Hummingbird Partnership works to protect Rufous Hummingbird and other western migratory hummingbirds by identifying gaps in knowledge and motivating actions for their protection. Its partners are diverse and represent universities, federal and non-governmental agencies, and individuals who participate in hummingbird research and education efforts. The Partnership’s newest publication, “Rufous Hummingbird: State of the Science and Conservation,” is a first compilation of research on the species, providing an overview of the factors that may contribute to its decline, gaps in our knowledge, and biological information. It is intended to raise awareness and focus on the importance of collaborations across borders that benefit this shared hummingbird.

Click here to access the full version of this report.

Suggested Citation:
Gillespie CR, Contreras-Martínez S, Bishop CA, Alexander JD. 2020. State of the Rufous Hummingbird science and conservation. Western Hummingbird Partnership, Boulder, CO.



United States
Dr. John Alexander, Executive Director, Klamath Bird Observatory; Telephone- (541) 890-7067; eMail-

Dr. Greg Butcher, Migratory Species Coordinator, US Forest Service, International Programs; Telephone- (202) 617-8259; eMail-

Dr. Sarahy Contreras-Martínez, Professor, Universidad de Guadalajara-CUCSUR; eMail-

Dr. Christine Bishop, Research Scientist, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Telephone- (778) 840-1917, eMail-


The Klamath Bird Observatory (KBO) is a non-profit organization that achieves bird conservation in the Pacific Northwest and throughout the ranges of migratory birds. The organization emphasizes high-caliber science and the role of birds as indicators, KBO informs and improves natural resource management and nurtures an environmental ethic through community outreach and education.

Universidad de Guadalajara-CUCSUR. Its Department of Ecology and Natural Resources-IMECBIO in Autlán de Navarro city was created with a vision of natural resource management and the integration of social development in western Mexico. This allowed it to coordinate programs such as the birds monitoring in protected areas in Mexico and the ecology and fire management project with an interdisciplinary approach at the national level. We have maintained since 1990, the 1st long-term hummingbird monitoring station in Mexico and we are contributing to the restauration of hummingbird habitats of the Sierra de Manantlán Biosphere Reserve protected area with the international collaboration through WHP.

The Western Hummingbird Partnership (WHP) was created to address concerns about hummingbird populations, including the Rufous Hummingbird. The partnership is a coalition of researchers, educators, organizations, and agencies in Canada, the U.S., and Mexico.

This news release was originally released by the Western Hummingbird Partnerships, November 12, 2020

For high resolution images contact Debra Agnew, KBO Science Communication Specialist at


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