During the summer we often have hummingbirds in the garden as they daily visit the wildflowers, herbs, fuchsia and Scarlet runner bean flowers searching for nectar. A pleasant surprise mid December was to see a hummingbird flitting between the dried flowers looking for feed. After putting up a hummingbird feeder, a pair of Anna’s hummingbirds were sitting and sipping on the feeder almost immediately. In the following days, including during snow falls, more hummingbirds visited the feeder. If you see hummingbirds in your area in winter they are most likely Anna’s and putting out a feeder for them will help them through the cold winter.
This is an ongoing learning process as we watch the birds each day. We have 3 regular hummingbirds at the feeder and one is obviously a very territorial female Anna’s who is slightly larger than the other 2 frequent visitors. The male has a black head with a splash of red at his neck, and is very difficult to photograph.
“Distinguishing the males is easy. They have shiny metallic feathers around their throat, called a gorget. In Rufous, these feathers are an orangey-red. In Anna’s, the gorget is a fuchsia purple/pink. In addition, Anna’s males have shiny feathers on the tops of their heads. The Rufous males also have a reddish wash to the belly and often, a completely red back, whereas the Anna’s males are green.”
Rocky Point Bird Observatory
It is recommended that regular white sugar be used with a ratio of 1 to 3 or 4 parts water depending on how cold the weather is. Simply:
- Dissolve the sugar by boiling in clean water for one minute and let cool.
- It is important to change the sugar-water feed every 5 days or so in the winter.
- If needed bring the feeder in overnight if expecting below zero night temperatures.
- Remember to place the feeder back outside at first light before the birds come by for their morning feed.
- The liquid will help warm them up.
It is important to use regular sugar for hummingbird feeders and not ” honey, brown sugar, icing sugar, juice or artificial sweetener!” Also do not use commercial feed which may have artificial colours and additives.
Hummingbirds are special
- Rufous hummingbirds migrate thousands of miles each year to Mexico
- Hummingbirds drink nectar and tree sap, but also eat some insects and spiders
- Anna’s are slightly larger than Rufous and are very territorial
- Amazingly, the birds visit thousands of flowers each day and are great pollinators
- Some populations are declining due to loss of habitat and changing climate
- The hummingbird can fly like an insect
- The hummingbird is the only bird able to fly backwards
- Hummingbirds use spider webs to line their nests
- Anna’s are able to reduce their body temperature, called Torpor, and survive cold weather
A state of lowered physiological activity typically characterized by reduced metabolism, heart rate, respiration, and body temperature that occurs in varying degrees especially in hibernating and estivating animals
Anna’s hummingbirds can be seen all year from BC south to the Baja Peninsula in Mexico. They are not uncommon in the southern coastal areas of Western BC in winter. Five to 7 years ago the Anna’s Hummingbirds started wintering over in the Fraser Valley and further north.
“Global warming will have a great effect on the flowering pattern that the birds rely on to travel up and down the continent. As we enter a warming phase, changes to water availability will impact the abundance of nectar resources, as well as the types of flora and timing of flowering. This could disrupt the wave of flowering that the hummingbirds follow and compromise their ability to migrate successfully.”
A Garden for the Birds
It’s fun and beneficial to have a bird friendly environment:
- Flowers and flowering herbs grow in the garden from early Spring until the snow flies in the Fall. These summer flowers are left in the gardens over winter to dry, for birds to feed on the seeds
- Larger birds, such as the Thrush, love to peck in the mulch for a meal and visit often
- Two bird baths are kept with fresh (unfrozen) water
- The tall cedar hedge and mature holly trees offer shelter from the wind and cold and nesting in the summer
- If the cold weather continues, a suet ball with bird seed may be hung on one of the trees
Birds seen often in our Winter Garden
- Anna’s Hummingbirds
- Steller’s Jay or Blue Jay
- Flocks of Bushtits
- Spotted Towhee
- Juncos and
- Thrushes who dig up the leaf mulch
- There are over 300 bird species recorded in the Fraser Valley
I wonder if these Anna’s visited our garden during the summer and simply returned looking for food. A pleasant surprise. We are so glad they are visiting us as they are most entertaining birds. Happy bird watching.
Who was Anna?
Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna) was first described in 1829 by René Primevère Lesson, a French naval surgeon and naturalist. He collected the bird for the private collection of Prince François Victor Masséna, the 2nd Duke of Rivoli, and named it for the duchess of Rivoli, Anna de Belle Masséna.
from: Anna’s Hummingbird – Our winter hummingbird