- The Animal Encyclopedia for Kids

Broad-Tailed Hummingbird

Broad-Tailed Hummingbird Facts

Size 3.2-3.8 in (83-97 mm); 4.7-5.5 in (12-14 cm) wingspan
Speed Up to 30 mph (48 km/h)
Weight 0.1-0.14 oz (3-4 g)
Lifespan 3-5 years
Food Nectar, insects
Predators Falcons, snakes, lizards
Habitat Texas, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, Wyoming, Colorado; Mexico (winter)
Order Apodiformes
Family Hummingbirds
Scientific name Selasphorus platycercus
Characteristics One of the smallest hummingbirds

Main Characteristics

The broad-tailed hummingbird is one of over 330 hummingbird species - and has the special ability of flying backwards.

Anatomy and Appearance

The broad-tailed hummingbird is easy to differentiate from other hummingbirds as it has especially broad tail feathers. The feathers on the male’s throat shimmer a beautiful pink or bright red. The white rings around the eyes are also typical. The females have spotted cheeks, and their feathers have a subtle pastel coloring in green and brown.


Where Do Broad-Tailed Hummingbirds Live?

Broad-tailed hummingbirds prefer open areas of forest with pines, oak, cypress, fir, and shrubs and bushes with flowers.

Broad-Tailed Hummingbird Broad-Tailed Hummingbird (male) - Photo: Dec Hogan/Shutterstock


A Cricketlike Wing Trill

Male broad-tailed hummingbirds make a shrill, trilling sound that sounds like a grasshopper chirping. This comes from their wingtip feathers hitting the air in a certain way. After summer, their wingtips have been worn down and they fly silently until they grow back in time for the next mating season in spring.

Broad-Tailed Hummingbirds Are Loud

Other males can even hear them singing 50m away. Females obviously have better ears: they can hear it 245 feet (75 meters) away.

Life Expectancy

The Oldest Hummingbird

On average, broad-tailed hummingbirds live for about two years. A female in Colorado (USA) was tagged with an ID ring in 1976, and caught again in 1987! The broad-tailed hummingbird was 12 years and two months old, so holds the record for the oldest hummingbird.

Broad-Tailed Hummingbird Broad-Tailed Hummingbird (female) - Photo: Takahashi Photography/Shutterstock

Adaption to the Habitat

Broad-Tailed Hummingbirds and the Weather

There are broad-tailed hummingbirds that live 9840 feet (3,000 meters) above sea level. The higher up you get, the colder the temperatures - that’s the general rule. But there are also small valleys up high, where cold air gathers so it’s warmer higher up. This temperature is the other way round, making it a special phenomenon called “atmospheric inversion”.

The females nesting in the valley manage because they are protected by the warm nest. As soon as it gets colder than 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius), they enter a type of brumation to keep their body temperatures to a minimum of 54 degrees Fahrenheit (12.2 degrees Celsius). But what about the males? They leave the valley to sleep at night, flying further up where the air is warmer. This lets them save 15% of their energy.

Broad-Tailed Hummingbird Broad-Tailed Hummingbird (male) - Photo: Dec Hogan/Shutterstock


Broad-Tailed Hummingbirds Are Loners

At about one year old, hummingbirds are able to mate and start their search for a partner. But hummingbirds only get together during mating season. The rest of the time, they prefer to go it alone.


They mostly lay two eggs, which hatch within 16-19 days. After just twelve days, the nest is too small and the mother is ousted. After a total of 25 days, the young hummingbirds leave the nest.

Fun Facts

Red Is Their Favorite Color

Hummingbirds often see red, in the truest sense. They are more likely to fly to red flowers with deep openings.

Broad-Tailed Hummingbird Broad-Tailed Hummingbird (female) - Photo: Donya Nedomam/Shutterstock

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