The Broad-billed Hummingbird – also known as Circe Hummingbird – is a medium-sized North American hummingbird that is known for its striking colors. It grows to a length that ranges from 3.5 to 3.9 inches and a weight of 3-4 grams. Its average wingspan is 4.7 inches.
The adult Broad-billed Hummingbird has a predominant color of metallic or glossy green on its upper body and breast. Its ear patch is greyish in color. The center of its throat is clear grey. Its broad and notched tail is darkish above, and mostly white in the under. The bird’s color combination looks brilliant when hit directly by sunlight.
Moreover, the Broad-billed hummingbird has a characteristic long, slender red bill that has a dark tip. This remarkable feature explains why it is called as such.
The male is distinguished for having a blue throat and a green chest. The female, on the other hand, is less colorful compared to the male. It shows a white line over the eye and grey under parts.
Juvenile Broad-billed hummingbirds look similar to the adult female, except that it has ‘buffy’ fringes on the feathers of upper parts. They also closely resemble juvenile and adult female White-eared hummingbirds. The reddish-orange beak also makes the species quite similar to Buff-bellied Hummingbird.
The Broad-billed Hummingbird feeds on nectar from flowers and flowering trees, or catches insects on the wing.
It is estimated to eat about 1.6 to 1.7 times its body weight in nectar every day, which is the average for majority of the hummingbirds. Their metabolic rate requires them to eat 5 to 10 times in an hour.
The protein sources of Broad-billed hummingbirds are insects such as aphids, leafhoppers, bugs, and root gnats.
Distribution and Habitat
The Broad-billed Hummingbird prefers to live in arid scrub, open deciduous forest, semi-desert, and other open spaces in arid habitats. It inhabits stands of sycamore and mesquite trees at the foot of mountain canyons. It also lives in dry gullies as well as along the banks of streams.
Its breeding habitat is in an arid scrub of the Sonoran Desert. It reaches the northern limit of its range in southeastern Arizona and goes up to southwestern New Mexico of the Southwestern United States and northern Sonora of Northwestern Mexico.
Those that nest in Arizona are migratory, while those birds in Mexico exclusively live in the breeding range for the entire year. The bird is sometimes seen outside its breeding range, from southernmost California to Texas and Louisiana.
The Broad-billed is considered ‘partially migratory’, as they migrate from northernmost areas to central Mexico during the winter.
Behavior and Ecology
Similar to other hummingbirds, the Broad-billed Hummingbird can’t walk or hop. However, its shoulder joints can be rotated. And its large breast muscles gives it a strong power, that it is deemed to be the only bird whose upstroke of the wing provides as much power as its down stroke. Also, its wings move very fast to a speed of 22-78 beats per second, which is why the bird appears quite blurry in flight. This fast speed, along with its small size, allows it to escape predators.
The Broad-billed Hummingbirds are described as solitary in all aspects of life, aside from breeding. They don’t live or migrate in groups. And pairs do not seem to exhibit any bond.
The male Broad-billed Hummingbird has a very minimal participation in the reproductive process. Indeed, his only actual participation is only during mating. He does not participate in choosing the nest location, constructing the nest, or raising the chicks.
He exhibits a dive display during courtship. He would hover about a foot from the female and fly in repeated arcs that create a U-pattern, closely resembling a pendulum.
After copulation, the male will already leave the female; probably even find other females to mate with. However, females will more likely mate with several males.
The female would then find a safe location in a shrub or a tree, where she will construct her nest. The female lays 2-3 white eggs. Upon hatching, which happens after 17-20 days of incubation, the young birds are in a helpless condition – naked and blind. However, the young birds fledge after a couple of weeks, about 22 days after hatching.
The Broad-billed Hummingbird has a ‘Least Concern’ status under the IUCN Classification system. The bird’s very large range and increasing population trend explain why it does not approach the thresholds for vulnerability.
Another factor behind its stable population is its ability to easily adapt to the lack of suitable flowers in some of its ranges. In fact, the Broad-billed would frequent gardens and residential areas where they can find sugar water from hummingbird feeders.
However, the species still encounter some threats to its population. For instance, the primary threat in the southeast is the loss of riparian habitat. In New Mexico, the Broad-billed only has a single known breeding location, making it vulnerable. Different conservation groups are continually conducting studies to make sure that the bird’s population will increase.