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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.

Distribution and Habitat

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

Anatomy and Appearance

Tail Feathers

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 in 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.

Life Style

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.


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

Abilities and Senses


Broad-tailed hummingbirds can be very loud! Males can hear their rivals singing at a distance of 160 feet (50 meters).

Sense of Hearing

Females can hear the males singing 245 feet (75 meters) away.

Adaption to the Habitat

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.

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 (male) - Photo: Dec Hogan/Shutterstock


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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