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Image by Malachi Diaz

Birds of Lasqueti

The Hummingbirds Are Back!

by Sheila Ray

The first salmonberry blossoms have opened and that means spring and the return of Rufous hummingbirds. But wait, some of us have been seeing hummingbirds all winter. Yes, things have changed since I started birding on Lasqueti. Then, if I saw or heard a hummingbird in the garden, it was a Rufous. Now there is another species living here: the Anna’s hummingbird, named after the Italian duchess Anna Massena.

Anna’s hummingbirds are native to California. In about 1930 they began expanding their range toward the east and north. They were probably able to do this because of an increase in ornamental flower gardens and bird feeders. However, they are not dependent on these food sources. Anna’s eat more insects than any other hummingbird species.

Anna’s arrived in B.C in 1940. In 1980 there eight were recorded on Victoria’s Christmas Bird Count. By 1986 there was evidence that Annas were breeding here. In 2002 one was recorded on Lasqueti’s Christmas Bird Count; and they have been on almost every count since. On the 2022 Christmas bird count,1084 were counted in Victoria.

   

Anna’s hummingbirds do not migrate although they may move around a little, looking for good food sources. The ones we see all winter may not be the same birds we see in the summer. They have a stunning courtship display. The males fly up in the air and then swoop to the ground making a loud noise as the air rushes through their tail feathers. They nest early – beginning mid-December or January – and can easily have two or more broods.

   

The Rufous hummingbird is known for its aggressive, feisty behaviour and its long migration. It makes a circular tour of western North America. Leaving their winter range in Mexico, they follow the flowers as spring moves north, arriving here when the salmonberry blossoms in mid-March. Some continue their migration up the coast as far as Alaska. They begin their return as early as July, travelling south along the chain of Rocky Mountains. 

 

While Anna’s hummingbirds are increasing their range and number, Rufous populations declined across their range by approximately 2% per year between 1966 and 2019. They are included on the Yellow Watch List for birds most at risk of extinction without significant conservation actions.

   

Take a careful look at the hummingbirds in your garden and at your feeder. Is it the striking green Anna’s or the dashing little Rufous? – Sheila Ray

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