Broad-Tailed Hummingbird

Photo Credit – BMC Ecology

They’re baa-aack! One of the wonders of spring is when the air fills with the trill of hummingbird wings. For the longest time I thought the local hummingbird visitors were the ruby-throated variety. I was wrong. There are 300 species of hummingbirds in the world, but only four in Colorado. None are Ruby. Instead, the birds that buzz through the yard are likely broad-tailed hummingbirds which also sport a magenta throat patch.

This particular species of hummingbird is a hardy one. It summers at elevations as high as 10,500’, where the nights get cool; many nights the temperature falls below freezing. To survive, the female builds a well-insulated nest. In addition, the birds enter a state of torpor when the outside temp hits 44° F, and maintain a body temperature of just 54° F. I am completely amazed by that because those little birds are only 3-4 inches in size and weigh less than 0.2 oz. That is not a typo. They only weigh about as much as a quarter. I must add that the males, who do nothing to build a nest or raise the young, often leave their territory when cold air descends to find warmer areas. When the going gets tough, they go!

Like other hummingbirds, they maneuver like a helicopter – the hover and can move forward and backward, up and down, and sideways. The broad-tailed hummingbirds beat their wings about 50 time per second when hovering. The trilling sound of the broad-tailed hummingbirds is only made by the males. It’s produced by their wingtips. Interestingly, these feathers wear down throughout the season so the sound is less audible. In the spring, though, new feather grow and the air fills with sound once again. I’ve heard them this spring, now I just want to see them.