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Thread subject: Question about hummingbirds
Name Date Message
Shelley 01/09/10 12:50 pm Since Melanie provided that link to the hummingbird cam in California, I have been mesmerized. I watch it at every opportunity. Mel initially called it an Anna's hummingbird but the site calls it an Allen's. So I googled both. They are very similar to one another and to the rufous.

What confuses me, though, is that both say that only the males have the big red patch on the upper chest. This hummer sitting on her nest has a very large vivid red spot there. I didn't think the males sat to incubate the eggs (well, we know that Dennis did give Betty her time off but I don't think other species do. I actually don't know). But I haven't seen any other hummer on the nest (that is, haven't seen one without the red spot).

Allen's hummingbird

Anna's hummingbird

Anyone have any insight into this?
Pamela 01/09/10 05:39 pm The red spot has really thrown me too Shelley.
Thought the following information was interesting:
Do hummingbirds mate for life?

No. They don't even stay together to raise the babies. The female does ALL the nest building, incubating, and caring for the babies herself, and a male hummer will mate with any females that he can attract to his territory. These are NOT romantic birds.

Shelley 01/09/10 06:45 pm I just found a link to email someone at I hope he answers.
Shelley 01/09/10 08:44 pm Wow! I got an answer already!! And yay, Melanie. She was right about Phoebe being an Anna's. The site master of the hummer cam states at the bottom of the cam that Phoebe is a Channel Island Allen's but according to Lanny, of, it sounds like he is an expert.

Here is his reply:

[my question]: > So here is my question: this hummer in California (named *Phoebe*) is obviously a female. The cam has recorded her laying the eggs and we see her incubating them all the time. But there is also no doubt whatsoever that she has a very large, very brilliant red patch on her upper chest. Is she an anomoly or is the information out there simply wrong?

[Lanny}: Phoebe is an Anna's. The earliest Allen's don't start nesting until February, while some Anna's begin as early as November. Also, her inner wing primaries are all the same width, which is true for Anna's but not for Allen's. It's easy to see these feathers when she's sitting on the nest. I didn't see her tail, but female Allen's have rusty brown in the base of the tail feathers, while Anna's don't.

Her red throat spot is pretty large, but not unusual for an older female Anna's. These patches often develop into triangles (point up) by the time the bird is four or five years old, but they're all a bit different. Allen's hens have red throat patches, too.

Phoebe appears to be a typical female Anna's, several years old.


I don't particularly want to be the one to tell the cam guy he is wrong. So I won't. ;-). But I am just happy to know the answer.
martyc35 01/11/10 12:23 pm FYI: I watched a PBS Nature show last night all on hummingbirds--fascinating. I was surprised at my own ignorance: I didn't know that hbs are found only in the Americas. The most interesting varieties are in Central and South America, of course, including one species in which the male and female have evolved different shapes and sizes of bills. They said that Darwin correctly predicted this might happen. He was so smart:-). I am sure this program will come around again if you watch your shedules for Nature.

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Last modified: Sun March 7, 2010