Calliope Hummingbirds

Teale Fristoe


Today I took another pre-work hike and managed to find more Calliope Hummingbirds. Location details can be found in my ebird checklist:

But I thought folks might be interested in more general advice on how to find these amazing and beautiful spring migrants. I've been very lucky with them this year, and I hope these thoughts help others enjoy them, too.

1. Learn and listen for the display sound. Hummingbirds all sound pretty similar to me, but the sound at the low point of their display dives are very distinctive. Male Calliope Hummingbirds create a high pitched buzz that almost sounds like a cartoon slide whistle sound effect. Always keep an ear out when there are hummingbirds around for this sound. It's often easier to hear them than see them, and it's how I found the birds today and how my group found the males on Saturday. You can hear a recording here:

2. Don't stay in gardens. I've seen at least seven Calliope Hummingbirds in the east bay this year, and only one was at a Pride of Madeira garden. These birds have been migrating through our area for much longer than humans have been here, let alone humans have been irrigating non-native decorative plants. Most of the Calliope Hummingbirds I've seen, including the 2+ I saw today, have been in healthy patches of chaparral that have multiple species of flowers blooming right now.

3. Don't wait to look for them! Our spring migration season is short, just a few weeks centered around the second half of April. Calliope Hummingbirds (along with Hammond's Flycatchers and, to a lesser extent, Rufous Hummingbirds) don't seem to return south along the coast, so spring is your chance to see them in the Bay Area. If you want to see these birds, make an effort in the next week or two.

Happy spring,
Teale Fristoe