Photo: Roger Eli Levien/Audubon Photography Awards

Broad-tailed Hummingbird

Selasphorus platycercus

Conservation status Still common and widespread, but surveys indicate declining numbers in recent decades.
Family Hummingbirds
Habitat Mountain meadows and forests. Breeds mostly in mountains, up to over 10,000 feet elevation. Mostly in rather open forest, especially near streams, including pine-oak and pinyon-juniper woods, and associations of spruce, Douglas-fir, and aspen. Migrants occur in all semi-open habitats of mountains and also make stopovers in lowlands.
The metallic wing-trill of the male Broad-tailed Hummingbird is a characteristic sound of summer in the mountain west. This sound is often heard as a flying bird zings past unseen. The birds are seen easily enough, however, at masses of flowers in the high meadows, where they hover and dart around the blossoms, often fighting and chasing each other away from choice patches.
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Feeding Behavior

At flowers, usually feeds while hovering, extending its bill and long tongue deep into the center of the flower. At feeders, may either hover or perch. When feeding on small insects, may fly out and grab them in midair, or hover to pluck them from foliage. Also sometimes takes spiders or trapped insects from spider webs.


Eggs

2, rarely 1-3. White. Incubation is by female only, 16-19 days. Young: Female feeds the young. Nest stretches as the young birds grow. Age of young at first flight about 21-26 days.


Young

Female feeds the young. Nest stretches as the young birds grow. Age of young at first flight about 21-26 days.

Diet

Mostly nectar and insects. Takes nectar from flowers, favoring red tubular flowers, and will feed on tiny insects as well. Also attracted to sugar-water mixtures in hummingbird feeders.


Nesting

Male defends territory by perching high, scanning for and then chasing intruders. In courtship display, male repeatedly climbs high in the air (up to 60 feet) and then dives, with a loud wing-trill. Nest site is in a tree, on a near-horizontal twig or branch, typically sheltered from above by an overhanging branch. Usually 4-20 feet above the ground, sometimes higher. Nest (built by female) is a neatly constructed cup of spider and plant down, with the outer edge covered with lichen, moss, bits of bark.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Migration

Travels early in both spring and fall, with many moving north in early March, south in early August. Adult males migrate before females and young in both spring and fall. Tends to move north through the lowlands, south through the mountains.

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Migration

Travels early in both spring and fall, with many moving north in early March, south in early August. Adult males migrate before females and young in both spring and fall. Tends to move north through the lowlands, south through the mountains.

Songs and Calls
Call is a sharp chick.