Anna’s Hummingbirds

This gallery contains 4 photos and 1 video. Anna’s hummingbirds are perpetual presences at our place, rain or shine, and even during the coldest of winter cold snaps (late last year, temperatures dropped to -15°C and necessitated the retrieval of nectar feeders at night and the subsequent return of them to their usual places in the wee hours of the morning). The addition of a fifth nectar feeder this year has seen 3 “guardians” (front, side, and back of the house), and 3 “backups.” Short tempers, even shorter stays, colourful avian (“fowl”) language, and spectacular dogfights (or perhaps “birdfights” would be a more appropriate term) are the orders of the day.

Anna's Hummingbird
adult male Anna’s with his stunning pink balaclava on plum tree (taken on June 2)
f/6.3, 1/400, 500mm, ISO 2000

The best way to describe these territorial tussles? When these two feathered combatants fight over food, they may tightly circle each other (which is actually quite artistic and entertaining to watch). They may even touch the ground during this conflict, but more often will clash bills and wings through bushes and trees. One may even dive bomb the other (like a courtship dive, but without the love). No one’s lost an eye or even a feather, but these quarrels can get quite intense. Generally, though, they chase each other in straight and ascending lines out of the backyard. The victor returns in a few seconds, usually to his favorite perch.

WHSIM Juvenile Male Annas Hummingbird on the Flowering Carrot.jpg
juvenile male Anna’s (current owner) with “peach fuzz” on flowering carrot (taken on July 12)
f/6.3, 1/400, 500mm, ISO 3200

There are even 3-way battles, and two sets of 2-way battles which can happen at the same time, especially when fledglings have left their nests recently and are trying to establish their own territories. Sometimes, the conflicts will happen continuously (one battle will happen within 5-10 seconds of the conclusion of the previous battle). The combatants only take a break to recharge their batteries. Incidentally, spacing out the nectar feeders and planting flowers in different areas hasn’t helped tone down the intensity of hummingbird conflicts in our area.

WHSim Male Annas Hummingbirds Battling.jpg
juvenile male and adult male Anna’s (foreground) battling on butterfly bush (taken on June 14)
f/7.1, 1/400, 500mm, ISO 640

Interestingly, it’s more often the juvenile males who battle most frequently; the adult males prefer to keep out of these entanglements. It’s as if age–not to mention a stunning headdress (which takes up to a year to develop)–grants wisdom (and a mellowness) to the more “seasoned” hummingbirds. The females, juvenile and adult, are less selfish and combative. It makes sense–since they will eventually become mothers– they can’t be as unsharing and selfish as the males!

WHSIM Juvenile Female Annas Hummingbird on Camellia Flower.jpg
juvenile female Anna’s checking out the camellia — just because it’s red (taken on April 8)
f/10, 1/180, 500mm, ISO 640

Watching these flying jewels feed from flower or nectar feeder is always a wonderful experience. Occasionally, though, they do engage in behavior that completely mystifies me. I had one chirp at me this summer — that’s “chirp” like a songbird, and not the metallic squeaky noises they usually make. Even more mysteriously, we also had two juveniles dancing for a few minutes (!!) on the pear tree branches in late November 2015 — watch the video below, and you’ll see what I mean.

Anna’s Hummingbirds as “in sync” dancin’ machines … why else would they bop their heads?

Learn more about the Anna’s hummingbird by visiting its Cornell Lab of Ornithology allaboutbirds.org profile here.

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37 thoughts on “Anna’s Hummingbirds

  1. Fantastic photos of these little “nutballs” – maybe the juveniles spend a lot of time in mock battle because they have the energy. Given how much energy these birds need just to maintain living, I’m surprised they’d waste some! But if there is a sugar supply nearby, then they can have at it!

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    • probably very true — the juveniles probably do not yet realize that there are finite limits to their energy levels — and are “testing their wings”, so to speak. the only other time hummingbirds would waste waste energy is when females are nearby … those steep courtship dives and elaborate dances are their way of showing off their physical fitness.

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      • thanks, Deb! we had the first heavy rains in several weeks yesterday (all day!) — but things are clearing up today, and of course, the fall birds are returning — always fun to see them!

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      • It is! I went to the Central Valley to see if I could spy any early migrants today. I saw one White Crown-Sparrow…to far for a photo though, a few Northern Pintails and, Shovelers are here, and LOTS of White Fronted Geese! I heard there are Sandhill Cranes showing up too, but didn’t go that far north to find them today.
        I did buy my annual pass to a favorite wildlife refuge today so I’m set for Fall/Winter migration. 🙂

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      • haha! I also have an annual pass to the local wildlife refuge here, but it’s also cool to see where else on the local mudflats and shorelines the migrants are showing up. I’ve added several new shorebird species to my life list this year by keeping an ear to the ground for sightings. 🙂

        the weird weather we’ve been having (cold at the beginning of September, and warm in the middle until yesterday) has produced early arrivals and stragglers. we’ve had a few Song Sparrows, Golden-Crowned Sparrows, Dark-Eyed Juncos, and the odd White-Crowned Sparrow show up 2-3 weeks before fall — and a Rufous Hummingbird buzz through on September 18 (this is our latest sighting in the backyard to date for Rufouses who are usually gone by early to mid August!)

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