Broad-tailed Hummingbirds: Physical Description and Similar Species

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A female (Selasphorus platycercus) landing at an artificial feede

MaleOverview ... Alternate (Global) Names

Distribution / Habitat / Status

Description ... Calls / Vocalizations

Breeding / Nesting ... Diet / Feeding


Size / Measurements

The Broad-tailed Hummingbird is medium sized averaging about 4 - 4.5 inches (10 - 11.4 cm) in length (including the tail).

Their weight ranges between 0.1 - 0.14 oz (2 - 4 g). Their wingspan is about 5 inches (12.7 cm).

The male's average weight is 0.11 oz (3.16 g), compared to the typically larger female which weighs around 0.13 oz (3.6 g).


Female Broad-tailed Hummingbird Common Physical Traits

This long-bodied hummingbird has a long and broad tail; iridescent green upper plumage and white chest.

They have a distinctive perching posture holding their wings high above the tail.

They have long, mostly straight, thin bills. Their eyes are black.


The male has a glossy green head and upper plumage and buffy-green sides. He has a rosy-red throat patch with a brilliant red iridescence. Some rusty coloration can be seen on their broad tail. He has a white line from the chin to the eye rings and to the neck.

In flight, the male's wings produce a distinct trilling sound that is specific for this species.

Broad-tailed Hummingbird - FemaleFemale

The female is much duller than the male. Her upper plumage is glossy green. Her underside ranges from whitish to orange-brown. She has with iridescent green or bronze speckles on her throat and upper chest. Her sides are rusty-colored.

She has green central tail feathers. The outer tail feathers are rusty at base, black in middle, and white at tips. Her tail projects well beyond the wingtips.

Immature Birds

Immature birds look like females, but have more spotting on the throat.


Similar species

They are easily confused with the Rufous Hummingbirds and the Calliope Hummingbirds.

The Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) occurs in the eastern United States, while the Broad-tailed is mostly found in western United States. However, there is some overlapping range in the central eastern US states. Identification can be made by the shape of their tails. Both male and female Broad-tailed have -- as is suggested by the name -- a broad, rounded tail. The Ruby-throat females and young males have a rounded tail, while the male has a forked tail with pointed feathers. Also, the adult male Ruby-throated Hummingbird has a redder throat, with black, not white chin.

The female Broad-tailed can be distinguished from the female Rufous Hummingbirds and Allen's Hummingbirds by her longer and broader tail, the green central tail feathers and the outer tail feathers which are rust-colored at base, black in middle, and white on the outer tips.

Female Broad-tailed hummingbird (Selasphorus platycercus)


Female Behavior

They are often heard without being seen, as the male's wings make an odd metallic trilling or cricket-like whistling sound in flight.

They are highly territorial and will fiercely defend their favorite wildflowers, with the most common opponent being others of the same species, but they are sometimes dominated by other hummingbird species.


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