By Andrew LaBar
Fall is an exciting time to gaze out your window. The sun is shining brightly, the leaves are changing, and if you’re as lucky as we’ve been here at The Watershed Project, the beautiful Anna’s hummingbird could be putting on a lively show right in front of your eyes, almost close enough to touch.
Anna’s hummingbird is the largest tiny bird on the west coast. At maturity, reaches nine or ten centimeters in length. Anna’s body showcases marvelous bronzes and greens, making these creatures shimmer in the sunlight. They have gray bellies and small white spots behind their eyes. Males sport a brilliant rose-red crown and throat, making them easy to distinguish from other hummers. The males also have a slightly forked, solid black tail with a little white tuft of feathers just above it. The female’s plumage displays the flashy bronze/green coloring with grays and browns on their wings, crown, and throat. The tails of the females are slightly rounder than the males’ and are tipped with white.
Range and Habitat
Anna’s hummingbirds are one of only two varieties found in the United States and Canada year-round. With a range that extends from British Columbia, down along the West Coast and into the western edges of New Mexico, Anna’s hummingbirds can be found in large supply during the late summer and into the fall here in the Bay Area. Humans have redefined the Anna’s habitat. Traditionally, these hummers stuck to the open woods, but an upswing in feeders and nectar-filled plantings along the West Coast has allowed the birds to expand their range. Anna’s hummingbird now thrives in urban and suburban yards, gardens, and parks.
Anna’s hummingbird has quite the sugar tooth. They use their medium-length slender beak to feed on the nectar found in sugary native plants like the red-flowering currant. Sometimes, they get protein by snatching up small insects. For those that live in the woods, insect-filled tree sap is a tasty meal. An influx of hummingbird feeders in yards has allowed for close contact and viewing of Anna’s hummingbird for many enthusiasts.
Mating and Life Span
It’s almost that special time of year. The mating season for the Anna’s hummingbird falls during the rainy season, between November and April. During this time, the female bird is busy building her soft nest, composed primarily of spider webs, plants, feathers, and hair in the inside, and bark and other hard, camouflaging bits on the outside.
Once her nest is suitable, the female bird lures an interested male towards her nest and perches on the side. In an effort to impress her, the male orchestrates a series of dive bombs around the female, showing off his skill and fiery red feathers. After mating, the male bird leaves and is no help at all in raising the young brood. Females can have two broods per mating season, incubating the eggs and nesting their offspring for about two months before they achieve independence. The average lifespan of Anna’s hummingbirds is eight and a half years.
Anna’s hummingbirds are very territorial. Grouchy males will dive at creatures entering their territory, regardless of size. The bird may fly as high as forty meters into the air before diving at the individual is an impressive show of brilliant color. The bird also has a distinctive bird call, heard when eating and before mating.