The Hummingbird in Winter


Visited Patty Paztor to check out a green hummingbird she’s been seeing, wondering if this could be the interesting Anna’s hummingbird which neither of us gets to see often.  I called out a few vague pointers.  “Does it look fat?  Dark?  Big headed?  Neckless?  Green underneath?”  When I arrived Patty had milk and cookies ready and a troop of white-throated sparrows waiting under the feeder.

I warned her that my camera wouldn’t do us much good (it has trouble focusing on the color red, which makes Santas, sports cars, and hummingbird feeders very tough targets).  Luckily, Annalise was home and popped in with her own camera to give it a try.

Here’s the bird.  It could pass for a ruby-throated immature male, but certain details (including a suggestion of somewhat darker feathering on the chest and flanks) kept us busy through a second batch of cookies.

A bit of the red gorget visible:


Looking plump.


Showing off a little neck.  From the gorget, this doesn’t look like it’s going to be a female Anna’s.

The pointed P10 primary and the obvious diminishment in width between P7 and P6 would be more consistent with a ruby-throated than with Anna’s hummingbird.  We can at least rule out the other Archilochus, the black-chinned hummingbird which is our usual summer (and sometimes winter) species:

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For contrast, here’s an Anna’s hummingbird seen at the Botanical Gardens in January.  Notice the even width on the primaries of the folded wing, stacked like slices of bread in a loaf (compare to the ruby-throated hummingbird in the first image, where some of the primaries are much narrower).

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This bird was an energetic flycatcher, tumbling and bowing back and forth above the pathway.  Notice its thick neck, big-headed appearance, and dingy greyish-green belly.  No trace of rufous, as in a Selasphorus, or much white at all, as in other Archilochus.

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A glimpse of the gorget.  The photo doesn’t really do it justice, but the color wasn’t red like a ruby-throated; it appeared pink or lavender.

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Notice the dark dingy smudges along the flanks.  Like an Anna’s hummingbird, this bird holds its tail in line with the body.  Wings spread like a bullfighter and tail held stiffly, its acrobatics resemble one of the paso dobles from Dancing With The Stars.

Here’s our Anna with Ricki Lake and Derek Hough: