For the Birds: Jewels in Shoreline

Monday, March 23, 2020

Female Anna's

By Christine Southwick

Hummingbirds, a highly adaptive and specialized jewel-like family of birds, are only found in North and South America! 

Hummingbirds have the unique ability to hover backwards — the hummingbird name was labeled for the sound of hovering.

Here in Shoreline, we have resident Anna’s Hummingbirds, migrating Rufous Hummingbirds (with a tiny number stopping their summer migration here) and occasionally an errant Costa's Hummingbird.

Male Anna's

Hummingbird iridescence is created by specialized feather barbules that act like prisms, which can create brilliant displays. 

When a male Anna’s courts a female he always begins and ends his impressive flight dive with the female between him and the shining sun, so that his neck (gorget) and head will appear that dazzling signature rosy red. 

When not refracting sunlight the male Anna’s heads and necks may appear black. Females often have minor iridescence on their bodies.

Female Rufous

Compared to most hummingbirds, Anna’s are very vocal, with both sexes making buzzy and clicking sounds, especially the male.

“Anna's hummingbirds eat more insects than any other North American hummingbird, and this may help them in bad weather. 
It is thought that Anna's hummingbirds are able to spend the winter so far north because they eat more insects and spiders than most hummingbirds.” (SandieGoZoo)

As residents, they drink nectar from flowers like fuchsias, eat insects on native plants like red flowering currants and snowberries and drink sap from sapsucker holes. 

They usually visit several feeders regularly a day, a practice called trap-lining.

They will also use bird baths repeatedly — a good way to see these fast-moving flyers.

Male Rufous

The female builds the nest and feeds her two young. Her nest is only about the size of a 50-cent piece with the eggs the size of jelly beans. 

She uses spider webbing and lichens, which allows the nest to expand as the nestlings grow. 

The male doesn’t help at all.

The male does have a distinctive flight dive. He may fly 100 ft up and then plummet in front of a female, ending in a “J” flight path with a loud sound made by his tail feathers. 

It sounds to me like a fire alarm low battery warning. 

So, if you hear that sound, try to find a female sitting on a limb watching this display (the male may be hard to find since he is moving so fast.)

--All Photos by Craig Kerns


Bridget March 24, 2020 at 7:51 AM  

Wow Chris, I just fell in love all over again with Hummingbirds via your words. I understand them better now too. Thank you!!

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