Broad-tailed Hummingbird (Selaphorus platycercus)
Associated Species: Other species that may use habitat in a similar way and/or respond similarly
to threats, management, and conservation activities include House Wren, Lincoln's Sparrow,
White-crowned Sparrow, and Dark-eyed Junco.
Distribution: Broad-tailed Hummingbirds breed in the Intermountain West from western
Montana south to southern Mexico, and from western Nevada east to the Rocky Mountain front.
They winter from the highlands of northern Mexico southward to Guatemala. In Colorado they
are common breeding birds in forested mountains at lower and middle elevations, and uncommon
at higher elevations and above timberline. They can be an abundant late-summer visitor to bird
feeders in western valleys and mountain parks and are rare migrants on the eastern plains.
Habitat Requirements: These hummingbirds breed in open ponderosa pine, mixed conifer,
aspen, and riparian woodlands. They nest in trees, frequently near or over mountain streams and
less commonly in pinyon-juniper and mountain shrublands. They build their nests of plant down,
lichens, bark fiber, and bound with cocoons and spider's silk.
Ecology: They arrive in Colorado mid-April to early May, and most autumn migrants depart by
mid September. Broad-tails are a lek displaying species with males strongly territorial and females
highly faithful to breeding sites, especially if successful the previous year. Incubation and feeding
of young is exclusively by females. They are mostly single-brooded, but in some years may be
double-brooded. Their diet includes flower nectar, insects, spiders, tree sap. They also feed on
insects gleaned from vegetation and taken in flight. Their complex, U-shaped courtship flights are
instrumental to pair formation and male territorial defense. They frequently bathe in shallow
pools of mountain creeks.
Management Issues and Conservation Recommendations: Grazing by domestic livestock
should be carefully managed to assure that standards of forb and shrub utilization, trampling of
vegetation, and soil compaction are not exceeded. Creation of small forest openings that
stimulate forb and shrub development will benefit this species. Aspen stand invasion by seral
conifers will result in long-term declines in habitat quality by reducing abundance and diversity of
flowering plants, and reducing density of low shrubs and forbs.
Status and Reasons for Concern: A very high proportion of this species' total population
occurs within this physiographic area, indicating that this area has high responsibility for the
conservation of this species. BBS population trends from Colorado and the western U.S. appear
to be stable or slightly increasing. It is most abundant in Physiographic Area 62. It reaches its
highest national abundance on BBS routes in central Colorado, averaging 52.8 individuals per
year in Gunnison County. They were present on an average of 97.5% (SE = 1.30) of the BBS
routes run in Physiographic Area 62 in Colorado, 1988-1998, at an average abundance of 15.69
(SE = 0.90) individuals per route. The mean number of routes run each year was 21.1 (SE =
3.06). This species is monitored by MCB with point transects.
Biological Objective: Maintain or increase the species' distribution and abundance, based upon
results of the BBS and MCB monitoring programs.
Selected References: Andrews and Righter 1992, Baicich and Harrison 1997, Dobkin 1994,
Ehrlich et al. 1988, Kingery 1998, Price et al. 1995.