Anna’s hummingbird (Calypte anna) is a beautiful and busy little bird of the American West Coast. They occur from Northern Mexico through California, Oregon, and Washington, extending into British Columbia in modern times. This is a common backyard bird that loves to visit nectar feeders and flowering ornamental plants.
Female Anna’s hummingbirds look similar to males but lack the extensive iridescent gorget and head plumage of the males. They have metallic green plumage on their backs, which extends up to the nape and the crown. Their underparts are a light gray color overall although there are some reddish feathers under their throat.
Apart from the physical differences, female Anna’s hummingbirds also exhibit some behavioral differences in comparison with males:
Continue reading to learn everything you need to know about the female Anna’s hummingbird, a tiny and energetic bird of the American West.
A female Anna's Hummingbird feeding
The best way to tell a female Anna’s hummingbird from an adult male is to observe the head and neck. Males have an extensive pink/violet gorget (throat region) that extends onto the crown and the sides of the face.
Depending on the lighting, these feathers could appear anything from pink to bronze or even black.
Female Anna’s hummingbirds have a metallic green back much like the males, but the gorget and coloration on the face and head are not as developed. They will have some violet-colored feathers on the throat, but nothing like an adult male.
It can be very difficult to tell female Anna’s hummingbirds from immature males, however. Both have metallic green upperparts, greyish underparts, and similar amounts of color under the throat.
Read on to learn more about identifying female Anna’s hummingbirds.
Female Anna's Hummingbird
Male Anna's Hummingbird
The female Anna’s hummingbird is a tiny creature by all accounts, although not particularly small as hummingbirds go. She is a fairly squat bird with an iridescent metallic green back and grayish belly, chest, and face. Female Anna’s hummingbirds also have some purplish markings under their throats.
Her thin bill is black, straight, and about as long as her head. This is perfect for accessing nectar from flowers. Like other hummingbirds, she has very short legs, with black feet.
Close up of a female Anna's Hummingbird
Anna’s hummingbird shares its range with some similar hummingbird species. The males are pretty distinct from each other, but identifying females provides bird watchers with more of a challenge!
The most likely species that you will come across in the same areas are the black-chinned hummingbird (Archilochus alexandri), the calliope hummingbird (Selasphorus calliope), and Costa’s hummingbird (Calypte costae).
Here are the most important differences to look out for:
Female Black-chinned Hummingbird
Female Calliope Hummingbird
There doesn’t appear to be any specific name for female hummingbirds, but the term hen is used to describe females of pretty much any bird species.
Female Anna’s hummingbirds are a similar size to males. Females have slightly longer bills and wings on average. Males have slightly longer tails, however, and are heavier than females. Unfortunately, these features are not very useful for making field identifications.
Continue reading to learn more about the behavioral differences between female and male Anna’s hummingbirds.
Female Anna's Hummingbird in flight
Female Anna’s hummingbirds can be told from males by observing their behavior. They are generally far less noticeable than males, with more subdued colors, fewer vocalizations, and less aggression and display activity.
Male Anna’s hummingbirds put on a remarkable display by flying over 100 feet (35m) into the air and then diving down towards the (hopefully) impressed female. To elicit this display, and find a potential mate, females will enter the breeding territory of a male.
Males will defend breeding territories and food sources, while females are more interested in defending nesting territories. Flowering plants or backyard hummingbird feeders are typical examples of feeding territories. Some females will also defend feeding territories, but usually only before nesting.
Male Anna’s hummingbirds are remarkable for their learned songs, but females are not known to sing.
Females do produce a simple tzip note and various other calls, however. The tzip or ‘chip’ call can be lengthened into a twittering call, and a longer chattering call is also produced.
These calls are most often heard during aggression or when the birds are otherwise agitated.
Close up of a female Anna's Hummingbird in flight
Anna’s hummingbirds usually nest in the winter, unlike the other hummingbird species in their range. The timing is variable, however, and nests have been observed as late as June. By nesting during the winter, these birds are able to avoid competition with other hummingbirds for nesting and feeding resources.
Female Anna’s hummingbirds select a nest site and build a nest all on their own. The nest is a neat little cup that is constructed from plant materials, feathers, hair, and spider webs. She will build this nest on a horizontal structure between 6.5 and 19.5 feet (2-6m) above the ground.
Branches and twigs in trees are the most commonly used nest sites, but these birds have also been known to nest on man-made structures like furniture and even the wire of a telephone line. Once the nest is constructed, she will lay two tiny white eggs that average just 12.7mm x 8.5mm.
The eggs hatch after 16 or 17 days and the female will feed the hatchlings a diet of nectar and insects until they leave the nest. Anna’s hummingbird chicks can fledge as early as 18 days after hatching, but development may be slowed by cold weather and fledging ages of up to 30 days have been reported.
Female Anna's Hummingbird sat on the nest
Female Anna’s hummingbirds are able to raise their chicks without the help of the male. She is a great mother, selecting the nest site, building the nest, incubating the eggs, and brooding and feeding the baby hummingbirds all on her own.
Although not as colorful as males, female Anna’s hummingbirds are still very attractive little birds. They are metallic green above and pale gray below. Their eyes, feet, and bill are black. They also have some reddish coloration under their throats, although far less than the males.
Female Anna's Hummingbird building her nest
Female Anna’s hummingbirds do not produce the complex songs of the males. They will produce chattering, twittering and single-noted ‘chip’ calls, however.
Female Anna’s hummingbirds do not have the extensive colorful gorget and head plumage of the males. They do have some colorful plumage on their throats, however. The color of these feathers can vary depending on the angle of the light, but they are usually purplish or reddish.
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