Broad-Tailed Hummingbird

(Selasphorus platycercus)

Broad-tailed hummingbirds are elegant 4-inch long birds that are considered the jewels of the Rocky Mountains because they are so frequently seen by residents and visitors alike. Campers will put out feeders and enjoy the local hummers.

Every cabin that puts up a feeder is bound to be inundated by hordes of hungry hummers.

Their wing whistles and musical chirps fill the air of mountain meadows carpeted with Penstemon and Larkspur.

Male Broad-tailed hummingbirds Arrive first in the upper elevations and stake their claims to territories by means of a towering dive display.

Hovering at the top, they can spy intruders as well as potential mates.

Male Broad-tail

Females are allowed to enter and feed, giving the territory boss an opportunity to impress them.

Female Broad-tailed hummers select the nest sites away from the male's territory and nectar supplies.

She will construct the nest of plant material, spider webbing, and cocoon silk.

The interior may be cushioned by plant down from Willows or Cottonwoods.

The nest may vary considerably in size.

The exterior is clad in lichens, bits of bark, or fine grasses.

Raids on other hummingbird nests for materials is common place.

The nesting season for is short and sweet because the growing season can be very short in higher elevations.

The first arrivals often precede the flowering of favored wildflowers by a couple of weeks, so insects and tree sap must fuel the initial courtships.

If you are feeding hummingbirds, get your feeders out a least a week before you think they will first show up.

By offering feeders and flower gardens you are insuring yourself frequent visits from these hummingbirds and other local hummers.

Young hummers have little time to learn the basic life skills before the wing their way South to Mexico to avoid early autumn frosts or snowfalls.

Migration Status: Neotropical migrant

Breeding Habitat: Woodland

Clutch Size: 2

Length of Incubation: 14-17 days

Days to Fledge:21-26

Number of Broods:1, possibly 2





Similar species:

Male Ruby-throated Hummingbirds have deeper red throats, black masks, are somewhat smaller, and lack the Broad-tailed Hummingbird's distinctive wing whistle.

Females are larger and bigger-tailed than the small Calliope Hummingbird, but are similar to Rufous and Allen's Hummingbirds.

They are are best identified by its larger size, large, broad tail, and restricted amounts of rufous in the tail, more blue-green back, whiter undertail coverts, as well as its call note.

Range Map:

Return to top of Broad-tailed Hummingbird Page

Hummingbird Species Profiles

About Hummingbirds

Grow Your own Hummingbird Gardens

Feeding Hummingbirds

Do You Have a Passion? SBI can Help You


Birds, Butterflies, Gardens and more.

Sign up for your weekly "Gardening For Wildlife" newsletter today.

Enter your E-mail Address
Enter your First Name (optional)

Don't worry — your e-mail address is totally secure.
I promise to use it only to send you Gardening For Wildlife.