E-Fauna BC: Electronic Atlas of the Wildlife of British Columbia

Calypte anna (Lesson, 1829)
Anna's Hummingbird
Family: Trochilidae

Species account author: Jamie Fenneman
Photo of species

© Tim Zurowski  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #8150)

Distribution of Calypte anna in British Columbia.
(Click on the map to view a larger version.)
Source: Distribution map provided by Jamie Fenneman for E-Fauna BC

Species Information

Adult male
The upperparts, including the back, scapulars, upperwing coverts, rump, and uppertail coverts are bright metallic green to golden-green. The flight feathers (primaries, secondaries) are dark grey to blackish. The tail is shallowly forked and dark grey, with metallic green central tail feathers. The underparts are mottled with dingy-grey and metallic green or golden-green (heaviest on the sides and flanks), often with a cleaner, whiter area across the upper chest and down the centre of the belly. The undertail coverts are bronzy-green with pale grayish feather edges. The forehead, crown, area behind the eye, chin, and throat are wholly iridescent rose-red or orangey-red, with the lateral throat feathers slightly longer and forming an extension of the gorget along the sides of the throat. The nape is metallic green or golden-green, like the upperparts, and there is a single small, white spot behind the eye. The iris is dark, the long, needle-like, straight bill is blackish, and the legs and feet are dusky.

Adult female
The upperparts (back, scapulars, upperwing coverts, rump, uppertail coverts) are metallic golden-green with dark grey or blackish flight feathers. The tail is squared or rounded; the central tail feathers are metallic golden-green while the remainder of the feathers are blackish with metallic golden-green bases and (at least on the two outer pairs) large white tips. The underparts are dingy and are variably mottled with dusky-grey and have metallic golden-green mottling on the sides and flanks; there is often a cleaner, whiter area across the upper chest and down the centre of the belly. The undertail coverts are metallic bronzy-green with grayish feather edges. The forehead, crown, and nape are metallic golden-green, occasionally with a few iridescent rose-red spots on the crown. The lores are dark and the ear coverts are dusky-grey with a small white spot behind the eye and usually a short, paler line above the eye. The throat is dingy-white to dusky with variable lines of darker grey flecks radiating from the chin and iridescent rose-red spots on the throat that are coalesced into a larger central splotch. Bare part colouration is as in the adult male.

Juvenile / immature
Individuals retain this plumage through their first summer and gradually attain adult plumage over the course of the winter. Juvenal plumage is similar to that of the adult female but rarely shows iridescent feathers on the throat. Beginning in their first summer, immature males begin to show variable rose-red feathers on the throat and crown and gradually attain the adult tail pattern. It takes 4-5 months for individuals in their first year to molt from juvenal to adult plumage.

Total Length: 9-13 cm
Mass: 4-4.5 g

Source: Russell (1996); Sibley (2000)



If seen well, a combination of the relatively large size (for a hummingbird), overall dark and dingy appearance, and a large, rose-red gorget that extends across the entire crown (giving the bird a “helmeted” look) make male Anna’s Hummingbird easily identified. The full extent of the gorget may not be apparent in some light angles, and may even appear to be restricted to the throat. In such cases, there is potential for confusion with species such as Ruby-throated Hummingbird and Broad-tailed Hummingbird. The colouration of the gorget (rose-red) helps to differentiate it from Ruby-throated Hummingbird, which has a more ruby-red gorget. As well, Ruby-throated shows clearer, whiter underparts and has blackish ear coverts that form a “mask” through the eyes. Broad-tailed Hummingbird is also cleaner and whiter below, especially across the upper breast, and produces a distinctive buzzy wing trill that is unlike any other hummingbird in North America.

Unlike males, female Anna’s Hummingbirds invite confusion with a wide variety of other female hummingbirds in North America. Species in the genera Selasphorus (Rufous Hummingbird, Broad-tailed Hummingbird) can be distinguished by their cleaner, whiter underparts and extensive buffy wash across the sides and flanks. Female Calliope Hummingbird also shows bright buff on the sides and flanks and is a noticeably smaller, shorter-tailed species (the tail does not exceed the wingtips when perched). The species that are most similar to female Anna’s Hummingbird are Ruby-throated, Black-chinned, and Costa’s Hummingbirds. Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird and Black-chinned Hummingbird are slightly smaller, more slender, and smaller-headed than female Anna’s Hummingbird, but this requires extensive experience with these species to be useful as an identification mark. In addition, female Anna’s Hummingbird is generally dingier and more heavily mottled below with dusky-grey and metallic green (underparts much cleaner and whiter in female Ruby-throated and Black-chinned, with a variable buffy wash on the sides and flanks). Female Anna’s Hummingbird typically shows a coalesced spot of iridescent rose-red in the centre of the throat, which is lacking in either Ruby-throated or Black-chinned (although immature male Ruby-throated can show some iridescent feathers on the throat [rarely forming a centralized patch] and juvenile Anna’s usually have an unmarked throat). Female Costa’s Hummingbird is noticeably smaller and stockier than female Anna’s Hummingbird (easily discernable in direct comparison) and, like Black-chinned and Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, has cleaner and whiter underparts that lack the extensive dingy and metallic-green mottling of female Anna’s Hummingbird.

The male’s song, which is given both in flight and from a perch, is a prolonged series of harsh, scratchy, buzzy notes, usually broken into phrases of similar notes and often with a pulsating tempo. The song is given year-round. The most commonly heard calls by both sexes include an emphatic, fairly hard tik or tih and a more smacking tsik; double-noted ti-tik or tsi-sik calls are also given. During flight chases, gives a rapid, buzzy, twittering t-chissi-chissi-chissi, often with qualities that are reminiscent of the male’s song. In aggressive encounters and during courtship displays, the male gives a low, buzzy, clipped bzzzt or brrrt.

Source: Russell (1996); Howell (2002)

Breeding Ecology

This is one of the earliest-nesting birds in B.C., and courtship often begins as early as January. The display ritual of the male Anna’s Hummingbird includes high-intensity song, chase, a “Shuttle Display,” and an elaborate “Dive Display.” When singing, the male generally chooses an exposed, elevated perch and, during courtship, produces a high-intensity, often prolonged version of the normal song. Once a female has entered the male’s territory, he initiates a “Dive Display.” This display is also used throughout the year to deter invaders into the territory, but during courtship it is used as an initiation to the courtship ritual. During this display, the male begins by singing several phrases of song while hovering 2-4 m above the female. With a wavering flight, he then climbs to 20-40 m in height and subsequently proceeds to rapidly plummet in a near-vertical dive towards the female. This dive ends 0.5-1 m above the female with an abrupt reversal and an accompanying loud, piercing spik or peek sound that is produced by air moving through the momentarily-spread tail feathers. The male then chases the female around the territory as she leads him towards her chosen nesting site. Once the female has perched near the nest site, the male then begins a “Shuttle Display” in which he flies back and forth in a short arc above the head of the female, holding his body in near-horizontal position but with his bill pointed downwards towards the female. He produces a series of bzzzt notes during this display, and often begins or ends it with several bouts of high-intensity singing.

Nest construction coincides with courtship period and is similarly early, often beginning in mid-winter. Only the female builds the nest and attends to the eggs and young, as the male abandons the female after copulation. The construction process takes approximately 7 days, but early-nesting individuals may take as long as a month to construct their first nest and late nests may be completed in as little as two days. The nest is a small cup (4.0-4.5 cm across, with an inner diameter of ~2.5 cm) and is situated on a horizontal (rarely nearly vertical) branch 0.5-10 (rarely to 20) m above the ground. It is placed in a variety of trees (including conifers), shrubs, and vines. Occasional nests are placed on artificial structures such as powerlines. The nest is composed of downy plant material (fluff or down of cattail, cottonwood, willow, dandelion, thistle, etc.) and is held together with spider webs, insect cocoon fibres, fibrous plant material, feathers, and rodent hairs. The outside is camouflaged with lichen, strips of bark, dead leaves, and mosses.

Clutches of (1) 2 (3) smooth, non-glossy, white eggs are laid within several days of completion of the nest (occasionally before nest is completed), with most eggs in B.C. appearing between mid-February and April (sometimes as early as January). Clutches of eggs, presumably representing second or replacement clutches, have been observed in B.C. as late as early July. Incubation is done solely by the female. The incubation period is 14-19 days, and most eggs in B.C. hatch between March and May (some hatching as late as June or early July). This species can produce two (perhaps sometimes three) clutches of eggs in a season, and has been known to start construction on a second nest while still tending to the young from the previous clutch.

Following hatching, the young are tended by the female for 18-26 days before fledging. and an additional 1-2 weeks following fledging. Nestlings are altricial and nearly naked when young. The skin is black and there is a patch of smoky-grey down along the back; the bill is short and the mouth is yellowish. Nestlings in B.C. are present between mid-March (perhaps earlier) and mid-August, and fledged young may be observed into late August.

Source: Campbell et al. (1990b); Russell (1996); Baicich and Harrison (1997)
Foraging Ecology

The Anna’s Hummingbird feeds on both nectar and insects, and is commonly attracted to feeders. A wide variety of both native and exotic or ornamental flowers are chosen as sources of nectar, including currants, manzanita, fuchsia, sage, and columbine. It aggressively defends patches of flowers as well as feeders from other hummingbirds, including conspecifics. Most insect prey is captured in the air, often through “hawking” behaviour in which the bird momentarily leaves a perch to capture the insect, then returns to the same or a different perch. It also gleans insects from vegetation and inspects spider webs for both insect and spider prey. This species often collects insects that are attracted to sap wells or pools of water, and will itself consume the sap that oozes from the wells. Insect prey is especially important in the diet during the winter, when there are usually very few flowering shrubs available as sources of nectar. When feeding, this species typically holds the tail still and close to the body plane unless probing up into hanging flowers, at which time the tail is held down and nearly vertically.

Source: Russell (1996); Williamson (2001); Howell (2002)


Most individuals in B.C. are found in residential areas, parks, and gardens where there are abundant exotic flowering shrubs. Especially away from Victoria, this species frequents areas with a warmer aspect and subsequently a greater number and diversity of flowering shrubs that bloom earlier in the year. Also found in brushy natural areas, scrub, and oak woodlands, but usually in the vicinity of human habitation. Small breeding population on northern Vancouver Island is associated with areas of early-flowering Salmonberry shrubs.

Source: Campbell et al. (1990b); Russell (1996)


Global Range

Resident along the Pacific coast of North America from B.C. south to northwestern Mexico, as well as inland in the southwestern U.S. to southern Arizona. Wanders widely in winter, where vagrants range north to southeast Alaska and across the eastern United States.
BC Distribution

Common on extreme southern Vancouver Island (Victoria region). Rare to uncommon, and highly local, farther north along the southeastern coast of Vancouver Island to Nanaimo, on the Gulf Islands, and along the west coast of Vancouver Island to Tofino; the largest populations on Vancouver Island away from Victoria are in the Nanaimo area. A small breeding population exists on northern Vancouver Island (Port McNeil) and this species may be a rare, sporadic breeder elsewhere on northern and central portions of the island, especially around human habitation. It is also uncommon and local in the Lower Mainland, particularly in the Vancouver area, and is rare on the Sunshine Coast. This species may also breed occasionally in the Okanagan Valley of the south-central interior where it is rare but regular during the breeding season, but this has not yet been documented. There is at least one documented extralimital breeding record from the Queen Charlotte Islands.

Breeding populations are resident. The Anna’s Hummingbird is well-known for its post-breeding and winter wandering throughout much of the southern and central portions of the province, especially along the coast (including the Queen Charlotte Islands) and in Okanagan Valley. Non-breeding wanderers occur north along the coast to the Skeena River and inland along the Skeena and Bulkley River systems, as well as north through the southern interior to Prince George and east to the Rocky Mountains. Such wanderers are most commonly encountered in the late fall and early winter (October-January), although they may appear throughout the winter in the south-central interior and along the coast.

This species has wandered into extreme northwestern (Atlin, Haines region) and northeastern (Chetwynd) areas of the province in the fall and could potentially occur as a vagrant anywhere throughout the province.

Source: Campbell et al. (1990b)


Population and Conservation Status

The Anna’s Hummingbird has undergone a rapid expansion along the Pacific coast during the past 50-60 years. It was traditionally restricted to California and northern Baja California, but beginning in the mid-20th century it began expanding northwards towards B.C. and eastward into Arizona; it is now a common and regular component of the avifauna of both regions. The first records for B.C. were in the 1940s in Victoria, and the number of reports began to increase rapidly in the 1970s and 1980s. By the late 1990s and early 2000s, this species had become abundant in the Victoria area and had established peripheral breeding populations elsewhere in southwestern B.C. This species continues to increase in abundance and expand its distribution in the province.

Source: Campbell et al. (1990b); Russell (1996)


This species is monotypic, with no recognized subspecies. It is closely related to Costa’s Hummingbird, and the two species regularly hybridize in the southwestern United States. There are also records of hybridization between Anna’s Hummingbird and both Calliope and Black-chinned Hummingbirds. The genus Calypte is very closely related to several other genera of temperate hummingbirds such as Selasphorus, Stellula, and Archilochus.

Source: Russell (1996); Williamson (2001)

Status Information

Origin StatusProvincial StatusBC List
(Red Blue List)
NativeS4S5YellowNot Listed
BC Ministry of Environment: BC Species and Ecosystems Explorer--the authoritative source for conservation information in British Columbia.

Additional Range and Status Information Links

Additional Photo Sources

General References

Recommended citation: Author, Date. Page title. In Klinkenberg, Brian. (Editor) 2021. E-Fauna BC: Electronic Atlas of the Fauna of British Columbia [efauna.bc.ca]. Lab for Advanced Spatial Analysis, Department of Geography, University of British Columbia, Vancouver. [Accessed: 2024-05-30 10:11:19 AM]
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