For the Birds: Missing Hummingbirds -- Really?

Monday, March 17, 2014

Anna's female sipping nectar by Doug Parrott

By Christine Southwick

Have your Anna’s Hummingbirds all of a sudden gone missing? Are you afraid that something has happened to them? You are not alone—several people have asked me this question just this week.

Feeding the nestlings by Dennis Paulson

What you are probably noticing is the lack of females drinking the nectar. Right now, many of our local female Anna’s are on nests, and starting to feed their nestlings. One of the reasons that Anna’s can survive here year-round is because the Anna’s Hummingbird eat more bugs (think tiny) daily, than any other North American hummingbird. Female Anna’s only feed their nestlings regurgitated bugs by sticking their long bill down the throats of their young (It’s really quite a frightful sight the first time you see the mother feeding her nestlings.) While they are feeding their young they are also eating enough bugs for themselves.

Male Anna's by Jon Timmer

Another part of the picture is that a female on a nest, when she does want some nectar, will usually start using the closest nectar feeder, instead of visiting all the neighborhood feeders as both the males and females do the rest of the year. I have one feeder back near tall evergreens that every year about this time goes down faster than any other time of the year. That also means that my other feeder goes down much more slowly—so slowly, in fact, that I sometimes think the feeder isn’t being used. Then, almost at dark, I will see a handsome male gulping down nectar until the feeder burps an air bubble. Maybe the reason it is so hard to notice the males drinking nectar is that the males tend to dart in, often staying on the wing, whereas the females will usually perch while drinking thus making their stops longer.

Female Anna's on nest by Doug Parrott

Hummingbird nests are quite amazing. By using strands from spider webs, the female is able to build a petite nest small enough to snugly hold the one to two eggs, and that expands to hold two full-sized nestlings. That’s quite an engineering feat. She will twine plant fibers, feathers, and small leaves into her cup-shaped nest. She often camouflages the outside with lichens and mosses, making the nest hard to find.

So those of you worried about your hummers vanishing, relax. The females will be back soon, along with the juveniles who haven’t a clue about how to use a feeder.


7 comments:

Chef' Bob May 30, 2014 at 1:41 PM  

we had them for only about 2 or 3 weeks and now for over 3 weeks none have shown up.; None of my friends have seen any also. Worried

Natasha75 June 24, 2015 at 10:25 PM  

I have a humming bird nest right outside my window and for the past three days I've enjoyed watching the mother feeding her two little babies...I usually see her coming and going from the nest and resting....this evening she's been missing for a good 4 hours or so - I can see one little baby humming bird there..not sure if he's still alive - what do you think happened? I saw a black bigger bird flying around...for a while..but, why the mother humming bird would be missing?

Unknown April 18, 2017 at 7:09 PM  

I've had Anna's at my feeders all last year through the winter. Right at the end of March they've disappeared, I haven't seen the for more than 2 weeks now neither have my neighbors. Mid March they were feeding in mass at my feeders in the evening 6 at the 4 spout feeder at once! This was very unusual because normally only one at a time would feed defending the feeder sometime 2 but 6 was unusual, I noticed this behavior (mass feeding) for only a few evenings but now they are nowhere to be seen. I figure they might be nesting raising their young but I keep a lookout for them at the feeder...nothing, not a one.

Anonymous,  May 1, 2017 at 3:31 AM  

I have only seen 3 in three weeks.
Between my neighbors and I we had 14 feeders going before.
I am only putting up one feeder just in case.
The one female is using flowers in my yard.
Didn't get any rufous so far this year.

LittleGreenBag June 13, 2018 at 6:55 AM  

Our hummingbirds made a nest and have been having two to three sets of babies per year for the last three years. This year, they only laid one set of eggs and have not been as prevalent, which has been worrisome. I have noticed a ton more crows. No neighborhood cats in the yard. Yesterday I noticed the nest was gone. Do they move nests? How would it just be gone?

JJ April 18, 2019 at 12:19 PM  

Did your hummingbirds ever return? My Anna's hummingbirds; I had two, disappear at the end of March after staying all winter and summer. Curious?

Hallie,  February 7, 2020 at 11:25 AM  

Sometimes I see hummingbird outside my home. I love to see them flying outside. I usually see them on columbine flower outside my home. I think this flower attracts hummingbirds. That's why I always found them on these flowers.

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