Vancouver Avian Research Centre

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Species: Anna’s Hummingbird Calypte anna


The quintessential urban hummingbird, Anna’s Hummingbird has shown remarkable adaptability to the urban environment. In recent times it has expanded its range northward and eastward, exploiting exotic flowers and feeders in urban and suburban gardens. The only hummingbird known to over winter in Southwestern British Columbia.


A medium-sized chunky hummingbird with medium-length straight black bill, dingy medium to pale gray underparts, medium-length to long tail. Inner primaries all approximately equal width, outer primaries angular at tip.

Adult Male: Bright green to bluish green above. Gorget is rose red to coppery red, with moderate extensions at corners; crown and separate patch behind eye same color as throat. Upper breast medium to pale gray, usually slightly mottled. Pale feather edges give green underparts a scaly appearance; pale midline stripe faint or absent. Long, deeply notched tail extends well beyond wingtips. Outer tail feathers are gray, darker at edges bordering paler translucent patches; R5 narrow, rounded at tip.

Adult Female: Bright green to bronze-green above, medium to pale gray below. Gorget markings vary from bronze-gray mottling to a ragged-edged triangle, oval or diamond of rose red to coppery iridescence. Slightly notched to double-rounded tail extends to or beyond wingtips. Tail feathers broad, rounded; R3-5 banded in dull gray-green, blackish, and white. Bill is straight to very slightly decurved.

Juvenile: Male: Resembles adult female but with pale feather edges, heavier mottling in gorget with larger iridescent feathers; R5 broad, rounded, with thin line of black ext ending into white tip along shaft.
Female: Very similar to adult female, usually with dull gray mottling in gorget with or without a few iridescent feathers centrally; may have more white in R2. Best distinguished by plumage condition.

Similar Species: Costa’s Hummingbird is smaller, with shorter tail, paler underparts with pale midline stripe creating a distinct ‘vest’; gorget is deep purple to violet, with longer extensions at corners. Females and immature males have thinner bills, shorter tails that are often pumped or wagged in flight; underparts are paler, plainer. Black-chinned Hummingbird are slimmer, with longer bills; paler, plainer underparts; inner primaries graduated in width. Tail is usually pumped or wagged in flight. Call note is a soft tchew or tchup.

Behavior: Typically holds tail still while hovering, unlike Black-chinned and Costa’s. Takes nectar at a variety of flowers, including native charparral currant, fuchsia-flowered gooseberry, wooly blue-curls, pitcher sage, California fuchsia, red bush-penstemon, western columbine, and bush monkeyflower; also exotics such as citrus, tree tobacco, aloes, bottlebrush and eucalyptus. Feeds extensively on insects, including gnats, midges and whiteflies, especially during winter. Occasionally observed eating sand and ashes, probably to supply minerals.

Adult males defend feeding territories and sing year-round; young males begin singing by late summer, often from concealment. Dive display is complex, noisy. Male sings buzzy notes while hovering over the object of the display, then climbs for 7 to 8 seconds on a wavering trajectory to a height of 65 to 130 feet before plunging the same distance in a mere 2 seconds. The dive ends with a shrill squeak as the displaying bird passes the object.

Habitat: Breeds in chaparral, coastal scrub, evergreen-oak woodland, riparian woodland, oak savannah, orchards, parks, urban gardens, sea level to 5,700 feet. Nonbreeding birds often move to higher elevations and inland into pine-oak forest, pine-fir forest, mountain meadows, up to 11,000 feet. Population density and distribution outside coastal southern California dependent in large part on availability of urban habitats.


No subspecies are recognized. Anna’s and Costa’s form a super-species, isolated primarily by habitat preferences. Hybrids between the two are common. Though song is now known to be more the rule than the exception among North American hummingbirds, the song of Anna’s was among the first to be studied and is still among the best known of all hummingbird songs.
The name of this hummingbird honors Anna Masséna, duchess of Rivoli and a patron of the sciences.

Conservation Status: More study needed.

This species has benefited greatly from human activities. Replacement of native chaparral and esert scrub with irrigated gardens and parks has permitted expansion of range north into Canada and east into the Mojave and Sonoran Deserts. Anna’s appears to displace Costa’s as natural desert gives way to residential and recreational development. Additional study needed to determine how these two species interact in urban habitats.

References: Williamson, Sheri L. Peterson Field Guides – Hummingbirds of North America. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2001.
Capture Rates

Capture rates of Anna's Hummingbird (2010-2012; standardized as birds captured per 100 net hours) peak in late spring through summer (May - August). Although Anna's Hummingbird do not migrate and can be seen during the winter, they will move to find a prominent food source, usually backyard feeders, which could explain our zero capture rate between October - April.


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