Bird Lore: Anna’s Hummingbird
Anna’s Hummingbird has become a common year-round resident in the Puget lowlands, the Washington coast, and the Vancouver area of Clark County. The range of the Anna’s is limited to the West Coast, Arizona, and parts of New Mexico. When a treatise titled The Birds of Washington State was published in 1953, Anna’s was not listed as a species that could be seen in Washington.
Now many of us around Puget Sound, including many Edmonds households, sport hummingbird feeders in our yards. During winter hard freezes we fret over whether the sugar water will freeze and devise ingenious ways to keep it thawed so that “our hummers” can survive the cold. The dramatic range expansion of the Anna’s Hummingbird over the last 50 years has been aided by the availability of cover, winter flowering plants in our gardens, and the sugar-water feeders.
Hummingbirds are known for their formidable flight powers, their iridescent colors, and their long, slender bills that they use to probe flowers for nectar. While hummingbirds certainly make use of sugar-water feeders and flower nectar, they obtain needed protein from insects and spiders.
The female Anna’s constructs her cup-shaped nest out of plant fibers and spider webs and lines it with fine plant down and feathers. She camouflages the outside of the nest with lichens. Don’t be quick to remove spider webs during spring yard clean-up. You might just see a hummingbird harvesting one for its nest. She typically lays two eggs and incubates them for 14-19 days without the help of the male. The young hummingbirds can take their first flight at 18-23 days of age.
Anna’s Hummingbirds can be seen in most Edmonds neighborhoods and parks. Keep your eye out for the glistening green iridescence that is an Anna’s zipping around, hovering, diving, or flying backwards at all times of the year. The male has a magenta-rose throat, called a gorget, and helmet that flash brilliantly in sunlight. And yes, you read correctly that they can fly backwards. They are able to do that because they can rotate their wings 180 degrees.
Hummingbirds are native only to the Western Hemisphere. There are over 300 species, most of of which are found in Central and South America. Twenty-four species are residents, summer migrants or occasional visitors to North America. Only two species are regularly seen in Western Washington: the resident Anna’s and the migratory Rufous. The song of a male Anna’s can be heard at this link.
Carol Riddell, author of our new “Bird Lore” feature, manages the bird education displays, on behalf of Pilchuck Audubon Society and Edmonds Parks & Recreation, at the Olympic Beach Visitor Station.