by Sarah Kishler
The Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna) was named after the 19th century Italian duchess Anna De Belle Massena. Natural history collecting was popular among upper class Europeans at the time, and naturalist Rene Primevere Lesson discovered the first specimen in Anna’s husband Prince Victor Massena’s private collection.
Today, Anna’s is the most common hummingbird in California, and the only one found here in the winter. The largest of our local hummingbirds, it can reach about four inches in length and its full wingspan is about four and three quarter inches across.
The Anna’s is a striking, iridescent creature. The adult male is the only North American hummingbird with a red red crown, and even the green-crowned female is graced with some of the same scarlet splendor in specks on her throat.
Anna’s hummingbirds hover to suck nectar from flowers. They also eat more insects and spiders than any other hummingbird. They catch their prey in mid-air or pluck them from webs.
Anna’s hummingbirds zip around so quickly that it may be difficult at times to notice them; hopefully, knowing a little more about them will heighten your appreciation of these fantastic birds in your backyard.
- The hummingbird is the world’s smallest bird.
- The hummingbird can fly forward, backward, straight up, straight down, and upside down. It can hover while eating “on the wing.”
- Normal flight is about 25 mph; up to 40 mps in a courtship dive.
- Nectar is the hummingbird’s favorite food. However, he will also eat insects and tree sap.
- An average hummingbird consumes its weight in nectar each day. It feeds every 10 minutes throughout the day.
- Its wings beat 78 times per second during regular flight and up to 200 times during a dive.
- The hummingbird’s heart beats 1,260 times per minute during the day, but slows to 50 beats per minute at night (this is called torpor).
- One hummingbird may visit up to 1,000 flowers per day.
- At one tenth of an ounce, a grown hummingbird weights less than a pencil.
- A hummingbird’s egg is about the size of a small jellybean. Two eggs per clutch are the norm.
- The nest is spun by the female from spider webs and plant material, camouflaged with bits of lichen, and lined with plant down.
- The hummingbird’s nest is slightly bigger than a walnut.
- Most hummingbirds live an average of three years. The oldest known hummingbird (a red-throated) is listed at about 9 years.
- During migration, a hummingbird may fly 500 miles, non-stop, across the Gulf of Mexico. While migrating, hummingbirds live on fat reserves stored in their bodies.
Planting gardens with nectar-rich flowers, shrubs, and trees can help replace lost feeding and breeding habitats.
Sugar solution: To make your own hummingbird food, mix 1 part sugar to 4 parts water. Boil together and cool before filling your hummingbird feeder. To ensure the health of your garden birds, clean feeders often.