Our bird identification guide to Anna's hummingbirds and expert advice about this colorful hummingbird species.
Come December, most North American hummingbirds are basking in the warmth of their tropical wintering grounds. But Anna's hummingbirds are already preparing to nest along the West Coast.
As the only hummer that regularly spends winters in the United States, the Anna's may begin nesting as early as December, sometimes laying eggs before the first of the year. It's a year-round resident throughout much of its range, which runs along the coast from northern Washington to southern California and east into Arizona.
Named after Anna de Belle Massena, the wife of a French prince and hummingbird collector, this striking species relies on plants that bloom in winter for sustenance.
Gooseberry, currant and manzanita are prevalent choices in wild areas. And as more people maintain flower gardens and sugar-water feeders during winter, these hummers are remaining in backyards and parks as well.
These birds are even expanding into new regions, moving north into British Columbia and east into states like Montana, New Mexico and Colorado.
The male Anna's hummingbird is best recognized by the patches of iridescent rose-red feathers on its crown and throat. Even the female sports a small red throat patch. The Anna's is also a little larger than other hummingbirds in its range, measuring about 4 inches long with a stout body.
When Anna's hummingbirds prepare to nest—anytime between December and June—the males begin defending their breeding territory. One of their most spectacular aerial displays is used in both aggression and courtship. The males will rise high in the air, then dive to the ground in a matter of seconds before veering back up while emitting a loud squeak.
If you happen to witness this sight, you'll know nesting season isn't far behind.