Ted Gough/Birds & Blooms
What does an Anna’s hummingbird look like?
A stocky, medium-sized hummingbird, the Anna’s has a straight, short bill and a broad tail that extends past the wings. With bold, metallic greens above a gray belly, Anna’s is the only North American hummingbird sporting a full reddish crown.
Males proudly display a brilliant magenta throat, called a gorget, and crown. If it appears to be more violet than rose in color, the bird could be a hybrid that is the result of mating between Anna’s and Costa’s hummingbirds.
Females have specks of pink-red on their throats, often forming a small gorget that is unusual for female hummingbirds. Their backs are duller, iridescent green, with drab gray underparts.
Some unique behaviors of the Anna’s hummingbird
To attract a mate a male puts on an aerial display that starts with hovering a few yards in front of a female. He ascends above the treetops, then dives toward the ground, pulling up with a loud screech made by his tail feathers. He does the same to intimidate intruders (including people).
Males also sing to attract a mate, which is rare among northern temperate hummingbirds, though their squeaks and buzzes are hardly musical to the human ear. Anna’s hummingbirds breed in winter and spring. After mating, the female uses spider silk to bind together pieces of plants, hair, feathers and lichen to make a nest among twiggy branches of a tree or vine. Her two pearly eggs hatch in two weeks, and the chicks fledge three weeks later.
Where do Anna’s hummingbirds live?
Anna’s range and numbers have grown thanks to feeders and their attraction to both ornamental and native flowers.
During the early 1900s, they were found primarily in northern Baja California and southern California. Anna’s now reside as far north as British Columbia and sometimes wander north to Alaska. Their range also extends eastward into Arizona, Nevada, Utah and western Texas, though they’ve been spotted as far away as New York and Newfoundland.
The growing and blooming cycles of native, coastal chaparral plants match the breeding and feeding habits of Anna’s—critical pollinators in these ecosystems. This beneficial relationship is one reason Anna’s are adapted to nesting in winter and early spring along the coast. At other seasons they may move to higher elevations in search of food, and some migrate east and west across California and Arizona.
What do Anna’s hummingbirds eat?
Like many other hummingbirds, Anna’s eat insects like midges and leaf hoppers. The high-protein diet might help them tolerate colder conditions in gardens, parks and streamside areas all along the West Coast year-round. Next, check out more expert tips for attracting hummingbirds to your yard here.
Other unique traits of the Anna’s
The body temperature of an Anna’s hummingbird is typically 107 degrees, but it can drop to 48 degrees when it goes into torpor, a kind of deep sleep, during cold weather. It takes about 20 minutes to “awaken.”
Anna’s, like other hummingbirds, are unable to walk or hop with their small legs. To move even a fraction of an inch on a perch, they take off and land in their desired spot.
In this reader photo, a male Anna’s was turning on the charm to attract a female. He displayed his beautiful gorget feathers. — Lisa Swanson , Maricopa, Arizona