Above: Male

Below: Female

Left: Male Broad-tailed

Right: Female Broad-tailed

Colorado’s Four Hummingbirds

Broad-tailed Hummingbird

The most common of our hummers, it prefers subalpine meadows, but they are also found in open woodlands, especially pinyon-juniper and pine-oak ecotypes, brushy hillsides, montane scrub and thickets. This is why so many are attracted to the Westside of Colorado Springs. Their distinctive metallic shrill brings smiles to every hummingbird lover.

Description: Adult male has a red throat. Look for a wider, rounded tail. Adult female has white throat speckled with iridescent green or bronze. Females can be very difficult to distinguish from other hummers, but compared to the Rufous, she has a longer, broader tail. Immature resembles adult female, with more spotting on throat. Size: about 3 3/4” long

Nesting: Typically 1 brood of 2 eggs per season, timed around the blooming of their food source. Incubation period is from 16–19 days, young fledge about 21–26 days. Only the Broad-tailed and Black-chinned breed in Colorado.

Fun facts: Ability to enter torpor, slowing its heart rate and dropping its body temperature on cold nights to preserve energy. The nest starts as a cup shape, but it stretches as the chicks grow until the cup is flattened into a platform shape.

Black-chinned Hummingbird
Black-chinned Hummingbirds are exceptionally widespread, found from deserts to mountain forests. As a habitat generalist, they are found both in natural habitats and very urbanized areas as long as there are tall trees and flowering shrubs and vines. (See my hummingbird gardening page for tips to attract these wonders). During migration, individuals rarely remain longer than one day at a feeder even when food is scarce, but how do you know whether your yard isn’t the stopping point?

Description: Males have no brilliant colors on their throats except a thin strip of iridescent purple bordering the black chin which is only visible when light hits it just right. White below the purple stripe confirms this hummer. Bodies are dull metallic green above and dull grayish-white below. Females have a pale throat and their three outer tail feathers have broad white tips. A fairly slender hummingbird with a fairly straight, black bill. Low-pitched humming sound produced by wings. Size about 3 1/2 ” (compare to the Broad-tailed at 3 ¾”).

Nesting: Typically 1 or 2 but sometimes 3 broods of 2 eggs per season. Incubation period is from 12–16 days, young fledge about 21days. The nest is often on an exposed small horizontal dead branch well below the canopy, from 6-12’ high.

Fun Facts: Black-chinned Hummingbird’s eggs are about the size of a coffee bean. When hatched, the babies are about 1/4 of an inch long and mostly unfeathered.

Calliope Hummingbird
The smallest US hummer and the smallest bird in the world to migrate long-distances, it measures at about 3 1/4 inches long and weighs in at about one-tenth of an ounce. Winters in Mexico, they do visit feeders here in the central Front Range mostly during migration. Summers at high elevation, open montane forest, mountain meadows, and willow and alder thickets (usually breeds in the north-west states). They often make a soft “tik” while feeding, but typically remain quite silent.

Description: The male’s colored throat feathers form streaks against a white background, and can be distended during courtship or excitement. Note the short tail, with the wings extending beyond the tail when at rest. Female is much smaller than Broad-tailed. Female has dull whitish throat and whitish or cinnamon-buff chest and belly.

Nesting: typically 1 brood of 2 white eggs per season. Incubation period is from 15–16 days, young fledge about 18-21 days. Nest is usually in a pine or conifer, sometimes more than 40’ high and sometimes built on a pinecone foundation.

Fun facts: Due to it’s tiny size, the Calliope often visits flowers growing within inches of the ground to avoid the aggression of larger hummingbirds (yea Rufous, I’m looking at you!).

Rufous Hummingbird
The Rufous hummingbird, one of our four local species, joins mid-summer. It’s a bold, beautiful but pesky little hummer. The Rufous’ migration is thought to be the longest of any bird in the world in relation to its body length. Spring migration takes them up the Pacific coast where the birds breed in the North-West, British Columbia and Alaska. This is the furthest north that any hummingbird species breeds. Southbound migration starts in June, bringing them down the Rockies where they slowly work their way back to winter territory in Mexico.

Description: The male is burnt orange with a black gorget which shines brilliant orange-red in sunlight, with a white chest and greenish-tan flanks. Female coloration is similar but lacks the gorget, and they are slightly larger than the males. Smaller than the Broad-tailed, it measures only 3 1/2” long, and weighing in at only 2-3 grams it takes five of these birds to equal one chickadee!

Fun Facts: This hummer is why you need a second (or third) hummingbird feeder! Rufous are a solitary species and are very defensive and aggressive near feeders, particularly during migration. These tiny birds will perch on a high, open branch overlooking “their feeder” when not feeding. When an intruder, be it human or hummer, is seen near “its feeder,” the Rufous will chase, chirp and threaten by diving, tail fanning and other visual and vocal demonstrations. It’s fun to watch!

Above: Male

Below: Female

Above: Male

Middle: Female

Bottom: Juvenile Male

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