Meet the girls!

You were introduced to Rosie (photo of her above) in my previous post. She was the first Anna’s hummingbird to ever show up here and stick around – for six years now! So she is probably an ancestor to much of the current hummer population in my neighbourhood.

Female Anna’s hummingbirds – like most bird species – are not as brightly coloured as the males. However, as you can see from this pic, they are not exactly drab, either. Although in some lights they look dull and greyish, when the light catches them right, the main part of their body is bright and iridescent, almost metallic: some gleam like emeralds, some flash olivey-yellow, and some shine with hints of sapphire.

And then that throat spot: although it often looks dark and greyish, you can see in the photo above that, when the light catches it, it gleams ruby red.

The throat spot is the main way that I identify my individual females. Every bird has a uniquely shaped patch on her throat. The first year that Rosie was around the winter of 2014-2015, it was just her and one other female. The second year, it was Rosie and two different females. The third year, was a real surprise. I put a lot of time into the photography, and was able to distinguish around 30 individual birds that winter: mostly females, but occasionally a male.

The third winter that I had hummingbirds around, I began to realize that there were actually quite a lot of different female birds here! Rosie had not returned (yet), and I didn’t recognize anyone else, so I started by numbering them. Here are a few of the girls who have been special in one way or another:

This bird was called Number One. She was quite distinctive both by positioning – dominating the main feeder on the front balcony – and also by the scraggly chin patch, with a couple of extra dots on her upper right.

When a new young male, Squeaky, moved in to take charge of that feeder, Number One moved to the side of the house and hid out in the laburnum tree. By then she had been here for months and was clearly a regular, so I rewarded her with a nicer name, after her tree: she became Laverne. She hung around that entire winter of 2016-2017, gradually getting more raggedy on the top of the head. She was the most regular bird that year, but she has not returned since then.

And this bird is Number 10. She was extremely distinctive because her throat was mostly white, with only a light bit of flaking.

She was a frequent visitor at the front yard hanging feeder that same winter of 2016-2017. Notably, whenever she flew off, she always headed south towards my neighbour’s butterfly bush. I always wondered if she had a nest over there (they tend not to nest near their feeding areas – too much competition).

Number 10 returned for a short while the following winter- one of only a few birds I’ve been able to ID year after year.

Number 15 (below) was a sweet little bird. She was extremely easy to recognize, even from a distance, because her chin patch was so big and dark, with a small notch on the left side. I had so many hummingbirds that winter of 2016-2017 that I set up extra feeders on the sides of the house – basically anywhere I could find that was out of sight of other feeders (around corners, under balconies, behind bushes). Number 15 took over the feeder by the woodpile, and sat day after day on this splinter of wood. When Rosie left the back yard in early spring (to nest, I assume), Number 15 took over her territory for a month or so, then she disappeared too.

And below – here’s a short video of Rosetta. She is new (I think! – I will have to find the time to go through my old photos to be sure). This year, the males have taken over the yard; there is one male guarding each side of the house, and the females have been struggling to sneak in to feed. Rosetta is the one exception: in good weather, she sits boldly on the rose bush (which she is named after) that sticks up from the hedge beside my driveway, and if it rains or snows she flits up to sit on the twigs at the balcony.

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Published by Jacqueline Windh

I'm a writer, photographer, and radio broadcaster who is concerned about our planet and how we live our lives - hoping my work helps people to find new ways of thinking about issues such as personal health, wilderness, the environment, food security, thinking about the future. These things are all connected, you know...

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