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Broad-billed Hummingbird

MARC number#LocationCountyArrival dateDeparture dateObserversReport
2008-21165 Grassy Pond Dr., DennisBarnstable08/23/0812/08/08Murphy (homeowner), McGibbon (identified), S. Finnegan (banded)13

Fig. 1. Adult male Broad-billed Hummingbird in Dennis 25 Aug 2008 (ph. Peter B. Trimble).

Broad-billed Hummingbird is a primarily Mexican species ranging from central Mexico north to s. Tamaulipas and the mountains of s. Arizona and s. New Mexico. It largely withdraws from the northern portions of its range in winter. It occurs as a casual vagrant west to California and east to Louisiana, and is strictly accidental farther east and north. East and north of Louisiana there are just a handful records, one of which occurred in Massachusetts.

Vagrant hummingbirds are typically discovered in late fall when they are reported coming to feeders, but this bird was earlier than most. The surprised residents noticed this bird visiting their feeder and, thinking it looked different, they asked birding friends to come identify it. The homeowners were later extremely generous, welcoming scores of birders to see it over its more than three months visiting their feeders. When the weather turned cold, the homeowners built a shelter and heat lamp for the feeder and nurtured the bird into the beginning of December.

WHERE TO LOOK IN MASSACHUSETTS: The location of the next Broad-billed Hummingbird in Massachusetts would be extremely hard to predict, but would almost certainly occur at a hummingbird feeder between July and December. Southeastern Massachusetts and the islands have been best for most vagrant hummingbirds so might be expected to continue to produce.

STATUS IN THE EAST: Although there are a number of fall and winter records from the Gulf Coast, north and east of there this species is an extreme rarity. To date there are two records from North Carolina, one from New York, one from Connecticut (Aug 2008), and one from New Brunswick. Since the Connecticut record predated the Massachusetts one by only a week or so, and since it also was an adult male, there was speculation that the same bird could have been involved. To our knowledge, there is no good evidence to support or refute this theory; despite being small birds, there are a number of instances where the same hummingbird has been rediscovered tens or even hundreds of miles away, probably because their attraction to feeders is so strong.

IDENTIFICATION NOTES: Although this species is not difficult to identify, it may be worth considering White-eared Hummingbird in future records. White-eared has occurred as a vagrant eastward to Mississippi and Michigan, and could conceivably reach Massachusetts as well. In addition to their quite different call notes, White-eared can be separated from female Broad-billed by its stronger face pattern, darker bill, and more prominent green spangling below; see Kaufman (1989) for a detailed treatment of these two species.


Kaufman, K. 1990. Field Guide to Advanced Birding. Houghton Mifflin, Boston, MA.