Photo courtesy Byron Greco
This week’s Bird of the Week, compliments of the Weminuche Audubon Society and Audubon Rockies, is the broad-tailed hummingbird.
With the recent arrivals of the first broad-tailed hummingbirds, it’s time to fill the feeders that were put away last fall. Males produce a loud trill with their wingtips as they zip around that announces their presence. These hummingbirds migrate early in spring, with males arriving first from winter grounds in Mexico.
Broad-taileds are hardy hummingbirds which breed in elevations from 5,000 to over 10,000 feet in the middle region of western mountain states. To survive temperatures that can dip below freezing at night, they may enter a state of reduced metabolic rate known as torpor, during which their heart rate and body temperature drop.
In aerial courtship displays, a male may make repeated climbs and dives from 60 to 100 feet, pulling up in front of a female to attract her interest. His lack of attention to the nesting female and to parental care leaves him free to mate with several females.
When nighttime temperatures are cold and females must remain on the nest, males may move to warmer areas for the night.
These hummingbirds are iridescent green above and have a relatively long tail that extends beyond the wingtip. Males have a rosy red throat patch. Females and immatures have green spots on their throats and cheeks.
Broad-tailed hummingbirds use their long tongues to drink flower nectar, sugar water from feeders and sap from sapwells drilled by woodpeckers. They also consume small insects, especially when feeding nestlings. Planting native flowering plants will help feed hummingbirds and other important pollinator species.
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