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Anna's hummingbirds begin courtship and breeding in San Diego

Male Anna's hummingbird staking out territory at Lake Murray.
Male Anna's hummingbird staking out territory at Lake Murray.
Darlene Luckins

You may have heard a sharp little “squeak” around San Diego lately, especially in the last few months. Those squeaks actually come from the tail of the male Anna’s hummingbird as they try to impress females by flying high and diving in a courtship display. Anna’s hummingbird courtship tends to increase in the fall when females stop nesting. Males will court most females that enter their territory and will chase out any that are unresponsive. The increased presence of available females means more courtship displays by the males who stake out the best spots for feeding and breeding.

Anna’s hummingbirds are one of the earliest birds to nest in San Diego. It is not unusual to see nests as early as December. Most females have begun nesting by February and some nest all the way until August. Many female Anna’s breed, consecutively, until the end of the season. The usually begin a new nest about two weeks after the last chick has left the nest or after a nest failure. It is not usual for a female to raise ten or more chicks a year in San Diego. This could be one of the reasons why Anna’s hummingbirds greatly outnumber other species of hummingbirds in the San Diego area.

Not all nests succeed. Some are predated by crows, rodents, and even insects and spiders. Some fail due to weather, since Anna’s often nest during the wettest part of the year for this region. And, sometimes eggs just don’t hatch or the something happens to the mother. The small birds are known to nest in very odd places and once a nest is established, it can not be moved no matter how inconvenient. Hummingbirds often use parts of the old nest to make a new nest, usually in a nearby location. It generally takes a little more than two weeks for eggs to hatch and about three weeks to raise the young.