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6 Broad-billed Hummingbird Facts (Photos)

Broad-billed hummingbirds are a hummingbird species native to the southwestern United States and Mexico. These colorful birds are known for their distinctive, broad billed beaks and males multi-colored feathers. In this article we will learn 6 broad-billed hummingbird facts, and talk about where you can see these birds in the U.S. 

6 Broad-billed Hummingbird Facts

1. Males are colorful while females are plain

Male Broad-billed hummingbirds are known for their bright, iridescent plumage, which can appear blue, green, and purple depending on the angle of the light. Typically they appear green on the head and back, with a blue throat and bluish-green belly. To add to their bright coloring, they also have a bright red beak with a black tip. They have a green back, crown, and white belly with a rufous patch on the lower breast.

Females are much less colorful. They have a green back with a dingy white throat and belly. Their beaks do not show much of the male’s red coloring, and they have a white stripe behind the eye. 

Male broad-billed Hummingbird
Male broad-billed Hummingbird | image by Shawn Taylor via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

2. They are attracted to the sound of diurnal owls

You may have heard that blue jays or crows can sound an alarm and even dive bomb a hawk or owl, alerting everyone nearby there is a predator in their midst and trying to chase them away. Did you know even the tiny hummingbird can engage in this behavior?

Broad-billed hummingbird species are attracted to the sound made by diurnal owls like the Northern Pygmy-owl. Diurnal means they are active at dawn and dusk, so these owls can pose a threat to small birds since they are hunting while other birds are active.

When they hear these owls, they will dive at the owl’s head or perch nearby and call. Often other birds will join in. This behavior is known as “mobbing”. It not only alerts other birds and attempts to scare the predator away, but may also help to teach younger birds what predators look like.

3. Some come to the United States to breed

Male broad-billed hummingbird on flight
Male broad-billed hummingbird on flight | image by gailhampshire via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Many Broad-billed hummingbirds live year-round in Mexico, however a population are short-distance migrants. The Broad-bills in the United States are all migratory, only coming to the U.S. during the breeding season. 

Broad-billed hummingbirds are known to nest mostly along canyon streams below 6,500 feet. These birds frequent many habitat types in Mexico, from canyons to tropical deciduous forests. In the U.S. you’ll mainly find them in the southeastern tip of Arizona and the southwestern tip of New Mexico. They look for regions that contain Fremont cottonwoods, mesquite and Arizona sycamore.

4. They feed on nectar but supplement with insects

Broad-billed hummingbirds are primarily nectar feeders but also feed on small insects and spiders for protein. They can hover in place while feeding, thanks to their unique wing structure that allows them to flap their wings at a high frequency.

In Mexico their favorite plants include cactus flowers, pochote and Bejuco blanco. While in the United States, agave, milkweed, Indian paintbrush, coral bean, trumpet honeysuckle, Mojave beardtongue and Texas betony are among their most visited plants.

Broad-billed hummingbirds will happily visit nectar feeders within their range. Putting out feeders or planting some of the flowers we mentioned will definitely help attract them to your yard. 

5. Males perform courtship rituals for female

Before mating, male broad-billed hummingbirds perform courtship rituals. These rituals, also known as courtship dances, are meant to attract females and involve a variety of displays and vocalizations.

Males will call from perches, and then perform a display once an interested female arrives. She will sit, and the male will swoop in an arc flying side to side in front of her, like a pendulum. He can make sounds during this as well as flash his colors. 

6. Females handle nesting on their own

A broad-billed Hummingbird on nest | image by Alan Schmierer via Flickr

Broad-billed hummingbirds typically lay two eggs per clutch, which the female incubates for about two weeks. The female chooses a nest site about 3 feet off the ground on a hanging tree or shrub branch and constructs the nest herself. Nests are constructed of bark pieces, grass and leaves, wrapped in spiderweb.  The young birds are born blind and helpless, and only the female cares for them until they are old enough to manage on their own.