Although not the smallest or most widespread of the more than 350 species of hummingbirds, the Anna’s hummingbird (Calypte anna) is a particularly striking bird to spot, with its iridescent plumage and (in the case of males) its unmistakable bright red head.
But where exactly do Anna’s hummingbirds live, and where is the best place to spot these tiny feisty birds? Read on to discover the answers to these questions and more.
Once limited to the shrubby chaparral of California and northwestern Mexico, since the 1960s, Anna’s hummingbirds have extended their range northwards and are now present all along the northwestern US coast, into southern Canada.
Some individuals have been spotted as far north as Alaska during the non-breeding seasons, and as far east as southern Louisiana. However, the species is mainly concentrated in California and its neighboring regions, where it is a year-round resident.
To learn more about the migratory habits and find out where you stand the best chance of catching a glimpse of one of these tiny crimson-crowned birds, then please keep reading!
Anna's Hummingbirds can be found all along the northwestern US coast, into southern Canada
Anna's hummingbirds have the northernmost range of all hummingbird species, and are typically found along the western coast of North America, from southern Canada to northern Mexico.
The range of Anna’s hummingbirds is limited to a narrow strip along the western edge of the United States, concentrated around California. However, Anna’s hummingbirds are increasingly present as a resident species in the Pacific Northwest.
As well as the west coast states of California, Oregon and Washington, Anna’s hummingbirds have become established further inland since the 1960s and 1970s. Since the start of the 21st century, breeding populations have developed as far east as southern and central Arizona, and into Nevada, Utah and Texas.
Occasional sightings are reported as far east as Louisiana, New York and Florida, and non-breeding birds have also been regularly reported as visitors to Alaska.
Southern British Columbia is home to small populations of breeding Anna’s hummingbirds, and the species is also sometimes found further inland, with rare sightings reported in Saskatchewan and even as far east as Newfoundland.
Male Anna's Hummingbird perched on a branch
Anna’s hummingbirds’ preferred habitats include woodlands, savannas, parklands and urban and suburban environments that are planted with a range of nectar-rich flowering vegetation.
The traditional favored shrubby landscapes of the Californian chaparral are popular with males, as their breeding territories, as well as broad-leaved woodlands. Female Anna's hummingbirds tend to nest in oak woodlands.
Within their usual range, it is not especially rare to spot an Anna’s hummingbird. The species’ population is estimated at between 500,000 and 5 million birds, and they are common visitors to backyard nectar feeders, as well as foraging for nectar-producing flowers.
Female Anna's Hummingbird feeding on Crocosmia
The easiest place to catch sight of an Anna’s hummingbird is at a purpose-built backyard nectar feeder, particularly in California, where they are believed to be the state’s most common hummingbird’s species. Sightings are particularly widespread in western and southern regions of the state.
In spring, you may well see foraging hummingbirds checking out large and brightly colored blossoms, particularly those near eucalyptus trees or in gardens where a wide range of exotic and nectar-rich flowers are planted.
Peak feeding activity time for Anna’s hummingbirds is noted as being in the morning and early evening, just before sunset.
Exotic and nectar-rich flowers are the best way to attract Anna's hummingbirds, as well as nectar feeders
Anna’s hummingbirds are partial migrants, meaning that some populations remain in their home territory throughout the year, while others do travel south temporarily until milder conditions resume.
In the 20th century, as the Anna’s hummingbird populations were confined to California and northwestern Mexico, migration was unnecessary as their home territory offered a suitable year-round environment.
As the species expanded further north, it became established in regions where harsher winter conditions are experienced, and while some birds have developed a hardiness and can remain in place throughout the coldest months, relying on backyard nectar feeders, others do temporarily decamp to warmer southern areas, before returning to breed the following year.
Anna’s hummingbirds may also engage in some post-breeding “wandering”, heading up to higher altitudes and further inland briefly during fall, before retreating to lower milder regions as winter arrives.
Close up portrait of a Anna's hummingbird
Many southern Anna’s hummingbird populations remain in their home territory all year round, as it provides a constant temperature and abundance of natural food sources, supplemented by backyard nectar feeders.
Anna’s hummingbirds that breed in more extreme northern regions, such as southern Canada or the extreme Pacific Northwest, may head to lower altitudes as winter approaches.
Anna’s hummingbirds also adapt by entering a state of torpor, in which they slow down their heart rate and metabolism, in a kind of “overnight hibernation”, meaning that their body temperature drops and they require less energy to survive.
In contrast to many other hummingbird species, Anna’s hummingbirds are present all year round in North America and have adapted to survive when temperatures drop. Up until the 1960s and 1970s, the species’ range’s northern limit of southern California meant that they were not exposed to especially harsh conditions.
However, as their range has expanded northwards into the Pacific Northwest of the US and into Canada, Anna’s hummingbirds are exposed to far harsher winters with plummeting temperatures.
The increased presence of backyard nectar feeders throughout the year helps to support these tiny hardy birds when flowering vegetation is lacking.
Anna's hummingbird resting on a branch
Anna’s hummingbirds’ nesting period extends between December at the earliest until June at the latest. Once the breeding season is over, some Anna’s hummingbirds may briefly leave their breeding grounds for higher terrain.
This ‘post-breeding dispersal’ opens up more possibilities for foraging for different flowers and vegetation, with birds returning to their breeding grounds once the colder temperatures begin to creep in.
Anna's hummingbird (female) at backyard hummingbird feeder
Anna’s hummingbirds are not known to be sociable birds and do not live in groups or even form mated pairs. They are highly territorial and will display very visual signs of aggression if their territory is encroached on by another hummingbird.
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