A common species of western mountains, where the male’s diagnostic, cricketlike wing trill is a characteristic sound. Like many “western” hummingbirds, the broad-tailed is increasingly found in late fall and winter in the southeast. Polytypic (2 ssp.; nominate in North America). Length 3.5–4"; bill 16–20 mm.
Tail weakly graduated. Pale eye ring in all plumages. Adult male: rose-red gorget with pale chin and face. Often detected by wing trill. Adult female: throat whitish with variable lines of bronzy-green flecks, sometimes 1 or more rose spots; sides of neck and underparts variably washed cinnamon. Immature male: resembles adult female but upperparts fresher in fall, with fine buff tips; throat usually flecked fairly heavily with bronzy green, often with rose-pink spots; tail averages more rufous at base. Complete molt in winter and spring produces plumage like adult male. Immature Female: Resembles adult female, but upperparts fresher in fall, with fine buff tips; tail averages less rufous at base.
Female/immature rufous/Allen’s hummingbirds are slightly smaller and slimmer in build (noticeable in comparison) with more strongly graduated tails that have a more tapered tip. Rufous/Allen’s typically have a whiter forecollar contrasting with brighter rufous sides, and lack the whitish eye ring often shown by the broad-tailed; their uppertail coverts and tail base have more rufous (adult female rufous can be all-green); and their chip calls are slightly lower pitched. Also see female and immature calliope hummingbird.
Generally higher pitched than rufous/Allen’s. Call: a slightly metallic, sharpish chip or chik, often doubled, ch-chip or chi-tik, and at times repeated steadily from perch. Warning call a fairly abrupt, clipped buzz, tssir, and squeaky chippering. Adult male’s wing trill diagnostic.
Status and Distribution
Breeding: western United States to Guatemala. Common (April–August) in mountains. Migration: mainly April–May, August–September (a few to western Great Plains). Winter: mainly Mexico. Casual to very rare (mainly November–April) in the southeast. Vagrant: casual north to British Columbia, west to Pacific coast.
—From the National Geographic book Complete Birds of North America, 2006