Costa’s Hummingbird

Calypte costae

Last updated: October 8, 2022
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
Image Credit iStock.com/Monica Lara

Costa's Hummingbird males have iridescent purple feathers on their heads and necks.

Costa’s Hummingbird Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Aves
Order
Apodiformes
Family
Trochilidae
Genus
Calypte
Scientific Name
Calypte costae

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Costa’s Hummingbird Conservation Status

Costa’s Hummingbird Locations

Costa’s Hummingbird Locations

Costa’s Hummingbird Facts

Prey
Small insects
Group Behavior
  • Solitary
Fun Fact
Costa's Hummingbird males have iridescent purple feathers on their heads and necks.
Estimated Population Size
Around 3 million
Biggest Threat
Change in habitat
Most Distinctive Feature
Purple feathers on male Costa's Hummingbirds
Wingspan
11 centimeters
Incubation Period
2 weeks
Age Of Independence
3 weeks
Habitat
Warm, desert climate
Predators
Snakes, lizards, small animals, larger birds
Diet
Omnivore
Lifestyle
  • Solitary
Favorite Food
Nectar
Number Of Species
1
Location
Southern California, Arizona, Baja peninsula
Nesting Location
Small trees and shrubs
Migratory
1

Costa’s Hummingbird Physical Characteristics

Color
  • Brown
  • White
  • Green
  • Purple
Skin Type
Feathers
Weight
Up to 3 grams
Length
3-3.5 inches
Venomous
No
Aggression
Low

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View all of the Costa’s Hummingbird images!



Watching a Costa’s Hummingbird feed on desert flowers is not only relaxing but also supports the local ecosystem.

The males have iridescent purple feathers on their heads and throat, transitioning to green feathers on their backs. The females have duller colors to help them blend in and keep their nests safe. While they occupy a small region, these hummingbirds are a common sight for the people who live there. They even make themselves at home in suburban neighborhood trees and shrubs.

Costa’s Hummingbird Amazing Facts

  • Costa’s Hummingbirds live in warm, dry climates of Southern California, Arizona, and the Baja Peninsula.
  • The Costa’s Hummingbird is the type species of its genus, Calypte. The genus includes one other species, the Anna’s hummingbird which is closely related.
  • Male Costa’s Hummingbirds have iridescent purple feathers on their heads and necks.
  • Each Costa’s Hummingbird female lays two eggs when reproducing.
  • Costa’s Hummingbirds eat nectar and insects from plants in their environment, including agave and desert honeysuckle.

Where to Find the Costa’s Hummingbird

These hummingbirds like warm, dry climates. They are common in parts of Southern California and the Southwest, including Nevada and Arizona. These birds tend to stay toward the northern part of their range for breeding, although they do not go into the northern parts of the United States. They do travel further south on the Baja Peninsula and into Mexico during the winter.

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Costa’s Hummingbird Scientific Name

The Costa’s Hummingbird is one species, known by the scientific name Calypte costae. It is part of the Calytpe genus, which includes two species of hummingbirds. The Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna, is similar to the Costa’s Hummingbird but lives further north in Oregon, Washington, and even into Canada. The Costa’s Hummingbird is the type species of the genus.

It belongs to the Trochilidae family. This family includes all species of hummingbirds, which is around 360 species in total. Hummingbirds are most common in warm, tropical climates but they can live further north. Even those that need warm environments can live in parts of Alaska and Canada during the warmer seasons. Hummingbirds eat nectar from flowers and hover in place as they eat.

Costa’s Hummingbirds, along with all other hummingbirds, swifts, and tree swifts, belong to the Apodiformes order. These birds tend to be small and have very small feet. Their feet do not have bony scutes for protection like other birds. Instead, they are bare skin. They also have shorter bones than other birds which helps them hover in place using their wings.



They are part of the Aves class. This includes all birds, around 18,000 species, and 50 billion actual birds in existence worldwide. All birds have feathers, beaks, and lightweight bones. Even the species that do not fly have a lightweight skeleton. Costa’s Hummingbirds are part of the Chordata phylum and Animalia kingdom.

Costa’s Hummingbird Size, Appearance & Behavior

These hummingbirds are small, even for a hummingbird. They grow up to 3.5 inches, with most closer to 3 inches. The females are slightly larger than the males, although the males have more brilliant coloring. They have a wingspan of around 11 centimeters when their wings are completely spread. Adults often weigh around 3 grams, with the females weighing slightly more than the males.

They are green with black tails. The females are slightly browner and duller green. Both the males and females have white coloring on their chests and underbelly. The males have purple feathers on their heads that extend to their throats in a gorget. This distinct feature is one of the best ways to identify a Costa’s Hummingbird. These purple feathers are iridescent.

Costas hummingbird in flight, sucking nectar from flower
The Costa’s Hummingbird averages around three inches in length.

iStock.com/kojihirano

Costa’s Hummingbird Diet

Like other hummingbirds, the Costa’s Hummingbird loves to eat nectar from flowers. They also eat insects, although only small ones due to their own small size. They mostly eat the insects that they find perched on flower petals as they look for nectar.

Because they live in desert climates, there are limited flowers that they can feed from. There are still plenty of options. These hummingbirds favor agave, chuparosa, desert honeysuckle, and fairy-duster. They use their long tongues to get to the nectar inside. These birds hover while they eat, either at the flowers or at a feeder specifically designed for hummingbirds. Feeders can hold sugar water, which replicates the nutrients in nectar.

Costa’s Hummingbird Predators and Threats

The greatest point of vulnerability for Costa’s Hummingbirds is when they are nesting. Many predators go after hummingbird eggs. These include snakes, lizards, and small animals. A few larger species of birds, such as jays, also like to eat the hummingbird’s eggs. Not as many animals target the adult birds. Some, such as Greater Roadrunners, will eat a Costa’s Hummingbird when they can catch them.

The bigger threats to these hummingbirds are competition for resources and changes in their habitat. Their distribution across parts of the southwest overlaps some with their close relative, the Anna’s Hummingbird. They eat nectar from many of the same plant species and competition for resources can get fierce. In areas where humans and development have decreased the available flowers significantly, this can become a problem.

Climate change also alters the breeding and wintering habits and locations of Costa’s Hummingbirds. They travel to the California coast during the summer to avoid the harsh temperatures in the desert. As these temperatures increase, it makes it difficult for these hummingbirds to maintain their same patterns. This impacts their breeding as well as their overall survival. Drought and wildfires also affect the available food sources for Costa’s Hummingbirds.

Costa’s Hummingbird Reproduction, Babies, and Lifespan

The males court the females by diving up and down to get their attention. They also whistle to show off and get further attention from females. The females build their nests in small trees or shrubs. Sometimes, they don’t have a ton of protection due to their desert habitat but the female hummingbirds do try to build their nests at least a few feet off the ground so that they are harder for predators to reach.

Each female lays two eggs at a time. They incubate for just over two weeks, during which time the mother bird continues to add grasses, twigs, and small debris to the nest. Once the baby Costa’s Hummingbirds hatch, the mother feeds them. They typically begin to fly and leave the nest around three weeks after hatching.

Costa’s Hummingbird Population

The International Union for Conservation of Nature classifies the Costa’s Hummingbird as Least Concern. This means that their population numbers are stable and not decreasing. While parts of their habitat have been impacted by the increase in manmade structures and neighborhoods, these birds have adapted to these changes. They can nest and even eat plants that are present in suburban areas.

Some estimates put the overall Costa’s Hummingbird population at just over 3 million. They are plentiful in the areas where they live and easy to spot due to their bright purple coloring, especially the males. To encourage hummingbirds and support the population, plant flowers that attract them. These include agave, chuparosa, desert honeysuckle, and fairy-duster.

Similar Birds to the Costa’s Hummingbird

Anna’s Hummingbird: This species is the only other that is part of the Calypte genus. It is closely related to the Costa’s Hummingbird and shares some of the same habitat.

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird: While the Costa’s Hummingbird has iridescent purple feathers, the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird has brilliant red feathers. It lives in parts of the Southwest but also lives in the Eastern United States.

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About the Author

Katie is a freelance writer and teaching artist specializing in home, lifestyle, and family topics. Her work has appeared in At Ease Magazine, PEOPLE, and The Spruce, among others. When she is not writing, Katie is a Teaching Artist with The APEX Arts Magnet Program in Anne Arundel County, Maryland and was awarded an Author Fellowship to Martha's Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing. She also enjoys spending time with her three kids and cat.

Costa’s Hummingbird FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

How long do Costa's Hummingbirds live?

They can live over 8 years, depending on predators and available food sources. Some studies tag and track Costa’s Hummingbirds to see where they travel as well as how long they live.

What flowers do Costa's Hummingbirds like?

Because they live in dry, desert climates, Costa’s Hummingbirds favor plants that grow in these areas. These include agave, chuparosa, desert honeysuckle, and fairy-duster.

Do Costa's Hummingbirds migrate?

They do shift to the coast or cooler areas when the southwest desert becomes too hot, but Costa’s Hummingbirds do not migrate as far as some other species of hummingbirds. Their range is relatively short, from Southern California and parts of Arizona to the Baja peninsula and Northern Mexico.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.

Sources
  1. Smithsonian, Available here: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/50-billion-total-wild-birds-inhabit-planet-study-estimates-180977753/
  2. Audobon Guide to North American Birds, Available here: https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/costas-hummingbird
  3. California Partners in Flight Coastal Scrub and Chaparral Bird Conservation Plan, Available here: http://www.prbo.org/calpif/htmldocs/species/scrub/costas_hummingbird.html#:~:text=Appears%20to%20retreat%20from%20developed,jays%2C%20orioles%2C%20and%20lizards.
  4. Hummingbirds Plus, Available here: https://www.hummingbirdsplus.org/species/costas/#:~:text=leave%20the%20nest.-,Conservation,approach%20the%20thresholds%20for%20vulnerability.

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