Broad-tailed Hummingbird

Common Name: Broad-tailed Hummingbird
Class: Aves
Order: Apodiformes
Family: Trochilidae
Genus: Selasphorus
Species: Selasphorus platycerus

photo M. Noonan

Hummingbird Taxonomy/Description

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.

photo M. Noonan

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.

Hummingbird Habitat/Diet

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.

Hummingbird Behavior/Reproduction

photo M. Noonan

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.

Hummingbird Conservation

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.

Content provided by Canisius College students under the direction of Michael Noonan, PhD.