Broad-billed Hummingbird (Cynanthus latirostris)
Sonoma, Sonoma County, California
17 November 2003
Joseph Morlan

Photos © 17 November 2003 by Joseph Morlan. All rights reserved.
Today Robbie Fischer and I made arrangements to visit the home of Dave & Karen Palmer in Sonoma to see the Broad-billed Hummingbird which Karen Palmer had first identified on Thursday, 13 November. We arrived shortly after noon and joined the Palmers and several other interested birders. In conversation, Karen Palmer suggested that the bird was probably first present in late October when she started hearing the distinctive call. However she did not see the bird to confirm the identification until last Thursday, 13 November.

After about 25 minutes we heard the rapid chittering call of the Broad-billed Hummingbird as it visited a feeder near the back porch. It then moved to a large Pecan tree and finally visited another feeder hanging under the eaves of a tool shed. It stayed for several minutes allowing excellent views before departing over the house to the west. We remained for approximately an hour and the hummingbird returned several times during our visit. I took the accompanying digiscoped images by hand-holding an Olympus D550z camera to a Nikon FieldScope 3ED with 30xWA eyepiece.

The following description is based on notes made immediately after, and while watching the bird:

A medium-sized hummingbird about the size of nearby Anna's Hummingbirds, but decidedly slimmer in proportions and with a much longer red bill and longer dark tail.

The bill was bright red on the proximal 50% of the lower mandible and about 30% on the upper mandible. The tip of the bill was dark. The base of the bill was exceptionally broad when seen from below.

The blue throat was strongly iridescent, often shining very brightly. The face and eye were dark. A white post-ocular stripe was more evident on the left side of the face than on the right. The crown was gray-green. The underparts were metallic blue-green, mottled with grayish-buff in the middle of the belly (molt?) and whitish on the undertail coverts. The back was iridescent green with a golden gloss.

The long, pointed wings were dark gray. The strongly notched tail was black with an indigo blue cast on the upper tail feathers and gray tips to the central rectrices. The feet and legs were dark-brown.

When perched the Broad-billed Hummingbird often quivered its tail rapidly, sometimes while calling. The loud chittering call was similar to the call of a nearby Ruby-crowned Kinglet, but more emphatic and without the pauses in the phrasing of the kinglet.


There are nearly 60 previously accepted records of this species for California since the species was first detected in San Diego in 1961. However, only six of these are from Northern California as follows:

      Alameda County, Fremont early Jan-9March 1982
      Monterey County, Carmel River Mouth 29 September-2 October 1984
      San Mateo County, Año Nuevo State Reserve 19 October 1986
      Humboldt County, Fairhaven 11 October 1993.
      Sonoma County, Santa Rosa 14 January 1996
      Humboldt County, Centerville Beach 14 September 1997

      Previously I have encountered this species in Santa Barbara and Los Angeles Counties where wintering individuals had been staked out. This is the first I have seen in Northern California.

There are also two records from Oregon as follows:

Grant County, John Day 12-14 September 1998
Clatsop County, Gearhart, 6-14 October 2001

Previous records have been attributed to the more northerly, migratory population C. l. magicus. This individual appears to be an adult male.

Additional photos of the Sonoma bird, taken by Kathy Robertson on 16 November are here. Leslie Lieurance has posted a video with sound here. I have posted full-sized versions of some of my photos here.


Mark Eaton's account and photos from 16 November are here. He argues that the bird may be a first-year male.