Broad-billed Hummingbird Life History

Habitat

Habitat Open Woodlands

In the United States, Broad-billed Hummingbirds nest mostly along streams in canyons, usually below 6,500 feet elevation. They forage in canyons and mountain meadows as high as 9,800 feet, especially in summer after the monsoonal rains cause flowers to bloom en masse. In Mexico the species frequents many habitat types, from lowland thorn forests and wetter tropical deciduous forests up into mountain canyons. In the United States, key plant species for Broad-billed include Arizona sycamore, Fremont cottonwood, desert willow, seepwillow, willow groundsel, burro brush, honey mesquite, whitethorn acacia, red barberry, netleaf hackberry, one-seed juniper, Arizona white oak, gray oak, soapberry, graythorn, woolly buckthorn, littleleaf sumac, and ocotillo, as well as different species of agave.

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Food

Food Nectar

Broad-billed Hummingbirds drink nectar from flowers and hummingbird feeders. They also eat insects, captured in air or picked from plants. In some cases, they defend productive patches of flowers against other hummingbirds. At other times, they move around between widely separated foraging areas, a strategy called “traplining.” These approaches change seasonally, as different species of flowers bloom in different habitats. For instance, a flower called Mohave beardtongue is a preferred species in springtime, whereas agaves, which bloom a bit later, attract this species in summer. Like other hummingbirds, Broad-billed feeds mostly in the morning and late afternoon, when flowers produce the most nectar. In the United States, backyard feeding stations attract the species readily throughout the day, with a distinct peak in activity in the evening. Broad-billed Hummingbirds feed from mescal agave, Schott’s agave, desert honeysuckle, trumpet honeysuckle, Bouvardia, bird-of-paradise, indian paintbrush, desert willow, New Mexico thistle, fireweed, coral bean, ocotillo, scarlet bugler, superb penstemon, Texas betony, and various species of milkweed and morning glory. In Mexico, dozens more species provide food for Broad-billed Hummingbirds. Among insect prey are plant lice, planthoppers, bugs, flies, mayflies, dance flies, ants, and wasps, as well as small spiders.

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Nesting

Nest Placement

Nest Tree

The females chooses a nest site about 3 feet off the ground (rarely up to 10 feet) on a downward-hanging branch of a tree or shrub, often near rocky outcrops or a stream. These nests may look very similar to the clumps of vegetation deposited in branches during high-water periods.

Nest Description

Females weave small cups of bark strips, grasses, and leaves, lined with plant down, wrapped in spiderweb, and sometimes adorned (or camouflaged) on the outside with plant matter. Nests average about 1 inch tall, with interior cup about 0.75 inches across.

Nesting Facts

Clutch Size:2-3 eggs
Egg Description:

White.

Condition at Hatching:

Helpless.

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Behavior

Behavior Hovering

During courtship, males call from perches, then perform a flight display when a female appears. The male hovers before the female, begins calling, and flies in an arc from side to side in front of her. After performing this pendulum-style display, the male sometimes also ascends vertically, then chases the female. When males direct this display at another male, it probably serves to warn a rival. After courtship and mating, males have no further involvement in the breeding cycle. Females build the nest, incubate the eggs, and raise the young, which become independent after fledging. After the nesting season, Broad-billed Hummingbirds wander in search of flowers (and feeders), often into higher elevations, before migrating southward. A few remain year-round in the United States, usually very near the Mexican border.

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Conservation

Conservation Low Concern

Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 2.2 million and rates the species a 10 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score, indicating a species of low conservation concern. A 2016 Partners in Flight report estimates 200,000 Broad-billed Hummingbirds breed in the United States, but population trends are unknown.

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Backyard Tips

Within their range, Broad-billed Hummingbirds may visit native flowers in gardens. They may also visit hummingbird feeders stocked with sugar water made with 4 parts water to 1 part sugar. Food coloring is not necessary.

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Credits

Lutmerding, J. A. and A. S. Love. (2019). Longevity records of North American birds. Version 1019 Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Bird Banding Laboratory 2019.

Partners in Flight (2017). Avian Conservation Assessment Database. 2017.

Powers, Donald R. and Susan M. Wethington. (1999). Broad-billed Hummingbird (Cynanthus latirostris), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA.

Rosenberg, K. V., J. A. Kennedy, R. Dettmers, R. P. Ford, D. Reynolds, J. D. Alexander, C. J. Beardmore, P. J. Blancher, R. E. Bogart, G. S. Butcher, A. F. Camfield, A. Couturier, D. W. Demarest, W. E. Easton, J. J. Giocomo, R. H. Keller, A. E. Mini, A. O. Panjabi, D. N. Pashley, T. D. Rich, J. M. Ruth, H. Stabins, J. Stanton, and T. Will (2016). Partners in Flight Landbird Conservation Plan: 2016 Revision for Canada and Continental United States. Partners in Flight Science Committee.

Sibley, D. A. (2014). The Sibley Guide to Birds, second edition. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY, USA.

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