28 August 2013


Our female Anna's hummingbird in the snow last winter.

 She lives in the shrubbery next door and we have never been able to find her nest. We call her "Anna" and in the past two summers we have created a whole garden for her, under the kitchen windows where she spends much of her day in the HotLips salvia.  She has to, as she is currently preparing her third brood of the summer to fledge. [Hummingbirds work efficiently -- it takes 6 weeks from egg-laying to fledging, and within three days of fledging, the next egg is laid.]

This is being written on Tuesday.  Last Friday I was writing in the dining-room when there was a flurry of cat, a pounce, a squawk, and another pounce.  The cat had Anna in his paws.  I removed her with some difficulty.  She was motionless, one leg clearly damaged, and her eyes covered with the nictitating membranes.   I thought she was dying.

I held her, awed by how much smaller she was to my hand than when I was watching her. Awed by the exquisite brown feathers at the edge of her beak and wing.  Awed that the flash of orange-red-purple gorget we sometimes see comes from 5 or 6 feathers barely 1/8 inch across. 

She was very warm to my hand -- hummingbirds have extremely high metabolisms, and her eyelids moved a little.  You can see the damaged wing and left foot in this close-up.  I asked Pierre to bring out the Annas' nest I had found on a sidewalk across the park last summer, so I could compare sizes.  

I cupped the nest over her and as I was turning them right side up, there was a flutter and chirp. Anna slipped out of my hand, over the roof of the shed, and into the hawthorn tree.

We didn't see Anna for 36 hours, and we felt sick.  Sick for the loss of her, and sick for the inevitable loss of the chicks in the nest.  Then Sunday I looked out at the HotLips and there was Anna, her wings a mess.  She perched awkwardly on the tomato cage and leaned over to drink from the HotLips.   

HotLips, hawthorn tree, shed.

Pierre saw her again Sunday but we were still unsure.  Monday she was back constantly.  It rained in the afternoon, a gentle soft summer rain, and I watched her on the powerline in front of the kitchen windows.  She opened her beak and stretched, fluttered her wings, fluffed her feathers, stretched, opened her beak, and fluttered her wings again and again.

Anna is a small miracle.

[Mid-afternoon note:  Anna is being courted!  The pair fly straight up together, quite high,  and then swoop down to within cat-distance.  A rest, and then up and swoop!]

National Geographic video on hummingbirds, 1 1/2 hours.


  1. So glad Anna came back! Amazing pictures--especially the video in the snow. Cats can be so annoying--they are a menace when let outside, I fear (they should all have bells). You do get around! (My 'Hotlips' is blooming too--)

  2. Thanks for writing. I've always wondered how birds learn what the bells are for -- I mean, once they know, it is too late. I feel OK about the cat, generally, though he was severely punished. This is only the 2nd bird in 8 years on his own account. Now, the neighbor's cat we have to watch out for, & the crows will chase it away.

  3. What a lovely story about Anna the hummingbird and Hotlips.

  4. That's a very endearing little story.

  5. Thank you. She seems to be doing very well, and I spotted two very small hummingbirds out there yesterday.


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