Our bird identification guide to broad-tailed hummingbirds and expert advice about this colorful hummingbird species.
Broad-tailed hummingbird photo by Steve Byland.
Just call the broad-tailed hummingbird a loud mouth, or rather, a loud wing.
Although many hummingbirds create a buzzing sound when flying, males of the broad-tailed species emit a high-pitched trill that's audible 75 to 100 yards away.
Air rushing through the feathers on the bird's finely tapered wings creates this distinctive whistle—which has been compared to the sound of crickets or cicadas.
The striking green back, rose-red throat patch and white belly of a male broad-tailed hummingbird makes it appear similar to the eastern ruby-throated species. But it's the only hummer with these characteristics that resides in the West.
The female also sports a green back and head, with pale reddish-brown patches on its sides.
It's fairly large for a hummingbird, measuring about 4 inches, and has long wings that extend past its tail when perched. The bird also has the namesake broad tail, marked by white tips and small rufous-colored patches on the outer feathers.
The broad-tailed is a mountain species, typically found at elevations from 4,000 to 12,000 feet. Their nesting range consists of an extensive area that includes the Rocky Mountains and surrounding ranges from Arizona north to Idaho.
The birds return from their Mexican wintering grounds beginning in March, when they seek out territory that includes alpine meadows, streamsides and open woodlands.
As spring and summer progress, the birds move up the mountainside, following the flowers that are beginning to bloom at higher and moister elevations.
They're curious birds that will investigate anything that appears to be a food source. So if you live in the western mountains, watch for broad-tailed hummingbirds at your sugar-water feeders or while hiking (especially if you wear a red hat). But remember, you'll likely hear them long before they come into view.