Tiny Tunes
By Una Boyle
Published: 03/02/2012  Updated: 08/08/2019

With buzzing wings and a squeaky chatter, Anna's hummingbirds are a year-round coastal resident and a musical sign of spring.

Despite the winds and rain of our coastal winter, one reminder of spring is ever present, bringing a wisp of song or moment of flight on even the grayest of days. The distinctive song of Anna's hummingbirds often surprises listeners with its squeaking phrases and twitters. The cricket-like chirping sound is rhythmically interspersed with the humming for which these tiny birds are famous. While most hummers do not have a song, Anna's sing year-round, producing beeps, chirps and whistles with their tail feathers.

Permanent residents of the coast, Anna's do not follow a major migratory route each year but choose instead to hover near home. Because they do not depend on nectar alone but dine on tree sap and insects as well, they are well adapted to the coast where they supplement their diet with azaleas, fuchsia-colored gooseberries and great-berried manzanitas. Larger than most hummingbirds, Anna's are easily recognizable; throat feathers in the male range from brilliant red or purple to near-black. Even the female sports a colorful throat, with white or green throat feathers standing out against her gray body.

To impress females and potential rivals, the male performs the dramatic feat of flying straight up as high as 130 feet into the air, then plummeting down and twisting its body so that the sun is reflected off its throat feathers and crown, offering an iridescent flash of dramatic color. The sight and sound of an Anna is a cheery harbinger of spring to enjoy throughout the year.
Tiny Tunes