Anna’s Hummingbird

My blog post this month is more or less the result of pure chance: At the beginning of the week, I decided to take a stroll around some of the outlying areas of UBC’s Vancouver campus to see if I could find Golden-crowned Kinglets that I had spotted in previous weeks, especially since they seemed inclined to stay close to the ground, so that I could take a few pictures of them. Although I have yet to get a usable photo of these little acrobats at UBC, my walk did allow me to capture many great photos of an even tinier bird: Anna’s Hummingbird (en français: Colibri d’Anna | Scientific name: Calypte anna).

Now as some of you may know, aside from a few days of rain, the winter in southwestern British Columbia, especially along the coast (not to mention Vancouver Island) has been unusually mild and even rather dry. This may explain why, a few days ago, I found this male Anna’s Hummingbird seemingly already marking the boundaries of its territory and maybe even already in full courtship mode (if you look closely at this photo, you may notice he is singing):

01-ANHU_male-UBC-2014_01_14-light

This bird did many interesting things, including “fluffing up” its gorget, as the throat feathers are called – although in this species, they cover the head as well. When the bird did so, the gorget turned from black to bright red, as the two photos below clearly demonstrate. As I’ve said before, this species in particular looks like a flying jewel, especially the male.

04-ANHU_male-UBC-2014_01_13

02-ANHU_male-UBC-2014_01_14

Anna’s Hummingbird is probably the most common hummingbird species along most of British Columbia’s Pacific Coast. This was not always so: Until some point in the early twentieth century, they were essentially confined to southern California and Baja California. Until a few decades ago in fact, the Rufous Hummingbird was the most common representative of its family, which happens to be the American Birding Association’s Bird of the Year 2014.

Anna Hummingbird’s sudden expansion in the twentieth century has been blamed by many observers on the increased presence of hummingbird feeders. In fact, as many authors point out, they were greatly helped out by the proliferation of gardens with exotic plants that flower well into the fall and, in some cases, as early as January on mild years. But I cannot help thinking that, since their diet essentially shifts to insects in the late fall and winter, climate change also has to be considered a major culprit.

I would also like to point out that All About Birds has an excellent article on Anna’s Hummingbird: You may want to read it to find out more about this fascinating species. Wikipedia’s article is also good. And to thank you for reading this article until the end, here is a photo I took last August of a juvenile bird in Vancouver’s Stanley Park (you may also want to take a look at another photo I posted on my personal blog, here).

ANHU_immature-2013-08-11

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4 Responses to Anna’s Hummingbird

  1. That is an excellent question. The fact that the Rufus Hummingbird arrives about now could unsettle their cousins, but I also suspect that it has to do with the fact that March is in the middle of the nesting/egg laying period for the Anna’s, too (they are one of, if not the earliest nesting passerine in the Lower Mainland). They are of course more discreet at nesting time.

  2. Doug says:

    E-mail corrected, tks. See previous comments

  3. Doug says:

    My wife and I live in Tsawwassen, B.C. and have observed for several years that the Anna’s hummingbirds are around all winter but disappear in early March before the arrival of the male Rufus hummingbird. Where do the Anna’ go? Are the Anna’s intimidated by the Rufus, and leave early to avoid confrontations? We can’t find any information on this trait.

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