Meet Your Backyard Birds
Anna's & Allen's Hummingbirds
(For information on how to feed hummingbirds, click here.)
The largest hummingbird locally. Male has an emerald-green back, ashy-gray breast, and, dependent on the lighting, an irridescent reddish-pink head and throat. In poor light, the head and throat can look black, but in reality, is dark brown or slate gray. These feathers have no pigment, but act like prisms to reflect back the colors seen to the right. Females have similar coloring, with tiny red spotting on the throat. They lack the full head covering of the male. They are here in the South Bay all year.
Length: about 4"; Wingspan: about 4.7"; Weight 0.1-0.2 oz (3-6 gm)!
Lifespan: 3-5 years; longest was 8 yrs, 2 mos.
Diet: Primarily flower nectar for carbohydrates, and soft-bodied flying insects for protein, minerals, etc.
- Anna's is a small bird, but for a hummer, it is considered medium-sized!
- Anna's Hummingbirds normally have a body temperature of around 107 degrees Fahrenheit—that's a scorching temperature for a human.
- When outside temperatures fall, Anna's and many other species of hummingbirds enter torpor. Their breathing and heart rate slow, and their body temperature can fall as low as 48 degrees Fahrenheit. When the temperature warms, the hummingbirds can become active again in a few minutes.
- Hummingbirds have tiny legs and can neither hop nor walk, though they can sort of scoot sideways while perched.
- The iridescent throat patch of male hummingbirds is called a gorget. The Anna’s gorget extends over its head, making it more of a balaclava than a bib. Oddly, female Anna’s have a tiny red gorget—females of most species have none.
- The Anna's Hummingbird was named after a French lady.
- Anna's are one of the earliest nesters along with the Allen's. Females can be on nests by mid- to late December.
Allen's Hummingbirds are small, compact, and stocky hummingbirds. The bill is straight and about as long as the head. The tail extends past the wings when perched and the outermost tail feather is narrower than the rest (difficult to see in the field). Allen's Hummingbirds are coppery orange and green overall. Adult males have a coppery tail, eye patch, and belly that contrasts with their bronze-green back and deep reddish orange gorget. Females and immatures are bronze-green above with paler coppery sides. They both have bits of bronze spotting on their throats, though females have more spots and a small patch of reddish orange in the center of the throat made up of about 10 feathers.
The Allen's Hummingbird is the 3rd smallest hummer found in California (the migrants Rufous and Calliope are the smallest). In spite of its small size, the male Allen's are considered to be the "bully on the block" and ferociously defend their territories.
Length: 3.5 in (9 cm); Wingspan: 4.3 in (11 cm); Weight: 0.1-0.1 oz (2-4 g)
Average lifespan: 3-5 years, and the oldest recorded was 5 years, 11 months old.
Slightly smaller than an Anna's Hummingbird.
Diet: Similar to Anna's
- Like other birds, Allen's Hummingbirds use their feet to help control their body temperature. When it's cold outside they tuck their feet up against their bellies while flying, but when temperatures soar, they let their feet dangle to cool down.
- The Allen's Hummingbird is a remarkably early migrant compared with most North American birds. Northbound birds may depart their wintering grounds as early as December, arriving on their breeding grounds as early as January when winter rains produce an abundance of flowers.
- Male and female Allen's Hummingbirds use different habitats during the breeding season. The male sets up a territory overseeing open areas of coastal scrub or chaparral, where he perches conspicuously on exposed branches. The female visits these areas, but after mating she heads into thickets or forests to build a nest and raise the young.
- They are found in the South Bay all year, and along with the Anna's, are among the earliest nesters.
This photo shows the effect of indirect lighting on the gorget of a male Allen's Hummingbird. Compare the dull coppery green to the bright reddish orange in the photo above.