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Broad-tailed Hummingbird

Selasphorus platycercus ORDER: CAPRIMULGIFORMES FAMILY: TROCHILIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

A jewel of high mountain meadows, male Broad-tailed Hummingbirds fill the summer air with a loud, metallic trills as they fly. They breed at elevations up to 10,500 feet where nighttime temperatures regularly plunge below freezing. To make it through a cold night, they slow their heart rate and drop their body temperature, entering a state of torpor. As soon as the sun comes up, displaying males show off their rose-magenta throats while performing spectacular dives. After attracting a mate, females raise the young on their own.

Calls

  • Calls, wings
     
  • Courtesy of Macaulay Library
    © Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Males and females chip and chitter when foraging, threatening intruders, or during fights over nectar.

Other Sounds

Male Broad-tailed Hummingbirds make an insectlike, metallic trill with their wings while flying that can be quite loud. The trill has a cricketlike quality to it and sounds like a cricket might sound if it were zooming around in flight.

Search the Macaulay Library online archive for more sounds and videos

Backyard Tips

If you live within the range of the Broad-tailed Hummingbird, putting up a sugar water feeder may give you an opportunity to watch one in your yard. Use a ratio of one part table sugar dissolved in four parts water, and don’t use food coloring. Learn more about feeding hummingbirds.

Adding flowers to your yard is another way to attract hummingbirds while also adding beauty to your yard. Learn more about creating a hummingbird garden at Habitat Network.

Find This Bird

Look out for Broad-tailed Hummingbirds at feeders. Listen for the male's loud wing trills as he guards territory around a choice feeder spot.

Broad-tailed Hummingbirds spend only a few short months in the United States so you'll need to get to a meadow sometime from late May to early August to catch them. In these areas, stop along forest openings and meadows that are filled with flowers and listen for the loud metallic trill of their wings. Hummingbirds frequently return to one or two favorite perches, so a great way to get good looks is to follow one with your eyes (not binoculars) until it lands on its perch. Visiting a hummingbird feeder in the mountains is also a good way to get good looks at Broad-tailed Hummingbirds.

You Might Also Like

Not all sweetness and light: the real diet of hummingbirds, Living Bird, Autumn 2010.

Western hummingbirds in the East–set your feeders out!!: keep your feeders up in the fall for a chance at rare hummingbirds, eBird, November 9, 2012.

When do you see more hummingbirds at your feeders?, Project FeederWatch, June 6, 2014.

Here’s What to Feed Your Summer Bird Feeder Visitors, All About Birds, July 11, 2014.

Annual Changes In Hummingbird Migration Revealed By Birders’ Sightings, All About Birds, March 25, 2015.

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