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Lewis & Clark as Naturalists
The Collection: Species Details Lewis and Clark as Naturalists
Bird    Species Name:
Selasphorus platycercus

Common Name:
Broad-tailed Hummingbird


Lolo Trail, Idaho
In the Bitterroots
  June 15, 1806

Real hummer

In Lewis' typically short notation style, he mentions coming across the nest of a hummingbird.  The nest is found on June 15, 1806, in the Idaho Rockies, and there are eggs in it.  Strangely, there is no mention of adult hummingbirds, which are quite territorial.  In fact, the male broad-tailed hummingbird is known for producing a trilling sound as it flies, so they are often heard first and then seen.  Neither is there even the briefest description of the eggs sitting in that nest, which would make identifying the bird more definite.

To say Lewis discovered the nest of a broad-tailed hummingbird is, well, pretty much a guess. These hummers are true mountain birds, and the party was in the the Bitteroot range, a known habitat for broad-tailed hummingbirds.  That much fits.  However, Idaho has other resident hummingbird species, too.  There is the widespread rufous hummingbird, the black-chinned, and less frequently, Anna's.  Nevertheless, it is rather inconceivable that the party should pass over the Rockies without witnessing the iridescent splash of the broad-tailed hummingbird.

Journal Entries:

Capt. Lewis, June 15, 1806--found the nest of a humming bird, it had just began to lay its eggs.

References Swainson, William, In The Philosophical Magazine, or Annals of Chemistry, Mathematics, Astronomy, Natural History, and General Science, Vol.1, p.441, by R. Taylor and R. Phillips. New Series., London, 1827

see following caption

See following caption
broad-tailed hummingbird, male, irridescent feathers

See following caption
broad-tailed hummingbird, male, side view

See following caption
broad-tailed hummingbird, male, back view

See following caption
broad-tailed hummingbird, male, front view

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