Common Name: Broad-tailed Hummingbird
Species: Selasphorus platycerus
photo M. Noonan
The broad-tailed hummingbird
belongs to the family, Trochilidae, in the Avian Order
Apodiformes. Apodiformes is the order of swifts and
hummingbirds. Trochilidae is the hummingbird family. The
broad-tailed hummingbird’s scientific name is
Selasphorus platycerus. Its generic name, selasphorus,
means “light bearing”, referring to the irredescent
plumage of this species. The specific name, platycerus,
means “broad tail.
Broad-tailed hummingbirds are
sexually dichromatic. Males have a bright red throat,
green sides and a black back with a gray underside.
Females lack the red throat and black, and are generally
less bright with a dull, light orange underside.
Juvenile males have similar coloration to females.
Adults weigh 3-4 grams and grow to 3-4 inches.
The broad-tailed hummingbird is a
migratory species. Its summer breeding range includes
the southern Rocky Mountain regions of the western
United States. The broad-tailed hummingbird winters in
Texas, Mexico and Central America. Oak woodlands are
preferred in both the summer and winter ranges. In fact,
hummingbirds of this species may nest in the same tree
or bush each year.
The primary component of this
hummingbird’s diet is nectar. However, flying insects
are also eaten. Nectar is very high in energy and water.
The hummingbird leads a very active lifestyle requiring
such large amounts of energy. Special kidneys and
intestinal tracts do not absorb as much water as other
terrestrial vertebrates to avoid water intoxication.
Consequently, hummingbird urine is very dilute.
Broad-tailed hummingbird males
maintain territories. They leave the wintering grounds
of Mexico during the spring, reaching Colorado by May.
Breeding occurs some time over the summer. A female will
lay two eggs in a two centimeter wide nesting
depression. She cares for the young alone, and they
mature before the winter migration south in the late
summer. Males arrive in the wintering grounds first,
establishing the best territories.
This species of hummingbird is not
endangered. Hummingbird feeders have helped to increase
populations living near human developments. Flowering
plants benefit from hummingbirds because hummingbirds
are pollinators. If care is not taken to preserve its
habitat from human interference, the broad-tailed
hummingbird may one day face extinction, which will
adversely affect the ecosystem.