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Small But Mighty: The Calliope Hummingbird

Calliope hummingbirds are the smallest birds in all of North America! Weighing in at barely 3 grams (or about the weight of a ping-pong ball) these birds are extremely diminutive in stature, but despite their size, they are a mighty little bird.

Calliopes are the smallest long-distance migrants in the world. They overwinter in Mexico, and their breeding range stretches from Nevada to as far north as Smithers, B.C. This means that some Calliopes travel over 9000km every year! Male Calliopes further refuse to act their size, and will chase birds as large as hawks out of their territories during nesting!

In BC, the highest abundance of Calliopes can be found in the Douglas Fir and Ponderosa Pine forests of the interior. One of their preferred foods is tree sap, which they will drink from wells that have been dug out by Sapsuckers. They also love to drink nectar from flowers and catch small insects, like all hummingbirds.

Want to help birds in your backyard? Check out these stewardship tips!

Put out a bird feeder. Different seeds attract different birds. Black oil sunflower seeds, nyjer seeds, and suet cakes are all popular and will attract different species. Hummingbird feeders must be emptied, cleaned and refilled with fresh sugar-water once or twice a week. Remember to only use white table sugar!

Leave old dead trees standing (if safe to do so) Dead trees often have holes where birds can nest. Removing these trees removes the nesting sites that birds like swallows and chickadees need. Even if a dead tree doesn’t have holes in it yet, it will often have insect colonies eating the dead wood. Those insects provide food for woodpeckers, and they provide cavities for all sorts of other birds.

Create spaces for birds

Create an area in your garden with dense shrubs will give birds somewhere to hide when they are done eating from your feeder(s). Bonus points for using native species that bear yummy seeds or berries!

Bonus fun fact: Calliope hummingbirds are named after the Muse Calliope from ancient Greek mythology. She was the muse of eloquence and epic poetry, and is said to have inspired the works of Homer's Iliad and Odyssey!


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