Anna’s Hummingbird – Male Dive Display

by Larry Jordan on March 6, 2010

Anna’s Hummingbird Female Being Courted photos by Larry Jordan

Spring is in the air in Northern California even though it is still a couple of weeks away.  Anna’s Hummingbirds, as I stated in an earlier post, nest early and thus avoid competition from other hummingbird species.  They may begin nesting in November or December but these two appear to be ready now.

As I walk into the backyard I here the distinctive “chirp” of the male Anna’s Hummingbird performing his dive display.  The sound is actually created by the male spreading his tail at a speed of up to 60 miles per hour.  Watch this 1 minute video.

The object of the dive display may be a female prior to mating or it may be a territorial display used to chase out another hummingbird.

When I heard the “chirp” Brigitte said “the hummingbird is right here.”  I slowly walked to where she was gardening and followed her pointing finger to this female, perched nearly on the ground, just a few feet from where she was working.

I ran to the back porch to get the camera and came back.  The bird was still there.  She was not moving other than to look up occasionally (presumably at the male).  I slowly closed in for a better photo, hoping not to alarm her.  She was not interested in me.  Then I understood why.

The male Anna’s Hummingbird flew down and performed a “shuttle display” about a foot away from the female and directly in front of her.  On sunny days like today, the male’s dive display is oriented so that the sun is reflected from his crown and gorget.  Impressive isn’t it?

She watched as he shuttled back and forth on the other side of a temporary nylon netting, displaying his glistening gorget in the sun.  Then he came closer to her, still displaying…

She watched him closely…

And then he chased her, as she most likely led him to her nest that she has been building for several days now, to mate.  Ah, springtime in the backyard, exquisite.

To see more about Anna’s Hummingbird courtship and nesting behavior you can watch this 3 minute video from

For more great bird photos, check out Bird Photography Weekly and the Friday Ark.

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Eileen March 7, 2010 at 2:57 am

Fantastic post on the Anna Hummingbird nesting behavior. I love the shot of the male displaying his gorget. Just lovely!
.-= Eileen ´s last blog ..Baltimore Oriole =-.


Wren March 7, 2010 at 6:42 am

beautiful photos, larry – and such an encouraging sign of spring. You have such fantastic photo ops in your own backyard.
.-= Wren´s last blog ..brown pelican, bird photography weekly =-.


NatureFooostep Fåglar/Birds March 7, 2010 at 7:31 am

interesting post about a beautiful bird. 🙂
Thank you.
.-= NatureFooostep Fåglar/Birds´s last blog ..Language – Språk =-.


gwendolen March 7, 2010 at 7:47 am

Wonderful photos Larry.
.-= gwendolen´s last blog ..Winter survivor =-.


Müge March 7, 2010 at 9:30 am

Extraordinary documentary photos! Very interesting, very beautiful!
.-= Müge´s last blog ..My first Robin =-.


Mick March 7, 2010 at 1:31 pm

Great photos and a very interesting post. No hummingbirds out here in Australia unfortunately but I did see some when I visited Washington State a few years back.
.-= Mick´s last blog ..Curlew Sandpiper =-.


Jill March 7, 2010 at 1:52 pm

Larry! that’s really quite awesome that you got ot see this, and so close, wow! I love this post and the photos are excellent. Hummingbirds are pretty spectacular!
.-= Jill´s last blog ..Yellow-faced Wooblers =-.


Neil March 7, 2010 at 3:59 pm

A very beautiful post Larry to be that close is amazing.
.-= Neil´s last blog ..White-bellied Sea-Eagle & Flying Foxes =-.


Bob K March 7, 2010 at 7:56 pm

Once again, a very informative blog on hummingbirds punctuated by great photos. The third one with the blazing gorget is just gorgeous!
.-= Bob K´s last blog ..Fairy Terns Can Come True… =-.


Lana March 7, 2010 at 10:14 pm

Great shots! I saw a program about the tail sound not too long ago. Fascinating stuff!
.-= Lana´s last blog ..Art, Space & Floyd =-.


phil March 8, 2010 at 2:54 am

Georgeous shots Larry. Great to see as we don’t have hummingbirds in the UK.
.-= phil´s last blog ..Fixed =-.


Avimor Birder March 8, 2010 at 5:51 pm

Really great photo-essay Larry! Fantastic shots of those Anna’s hummers.


Amber Coakley March 8, 2010 at 7:15 pm

I just backspaced over my original exuberant exclamation at the sight of that male showing off his built-in bling! I had no idea they DID that!

And that video footage that suggests twirping with the tail feathers…fascinating. I wonder if the scientists know for sure?
.-= Amber Coakley´s last blog ..Challenge for Charity – March, 2010 =-.


Nicole March 9, 2010 at 4:35 am

These shots are amazing, Larry!
I’ve never seen a hummingbird, let alone one doing the dance for his girl.
Like Amber, I didn’t even know that they do the ‘Bling’ thing, or even have it 😀
.-= Nicole´s last blog ..(Indian) House crow, Glanzkraehe, Corvus splendens =-.


Grace and Bradley March 12, 2010 at 12:10 am

Marvelous information and very nice photos! I have only seen them once in the backyard of our home on Cape Cod. Thanks for visiting our blog!
.-= Grace and Bradley´s last blog ..ABC Wednesday: H is for Heron =-.


Susan March 12, 2010 at 12:36 pm

I just got to experience something very similar in my backyard this morning in Pasadena, CA. While filling a feeder, I heard the male Anna’s tail chirp. I looked up in time to see him repeat the sound with an aerial display. I waited for more, and he was a no show. A movement on the grass caught my eye. There was a female lying on the ground with her wings spread. The male was not 5 inches from her,also on the grass, squeaking away, wings out and flat and his gorget in full display, making the most of the sun. This lasted for a few minutes and then they flew off to the lemon tree in the back to most likely do the deed. I love my hummers!


Mike @ Slugyard July 27, 2010 at 8:46 pm

Great shots- I’ve seen the Anna’s display many times in my yard. Once I heard that chirp and actually figured out what it was, I seemed to hear it all the time. But, I’ve never been able to get the photos like you have here. Very nice.


Wim December 5, 2010 at 9:20 am

Great video’s TY


Charles T. December 8, 2010 at 11:44 am

While outside gardening today (Dec. 8th, 2010) I saw a male Anna doing its dive display tail chirp!! I live in Camarillo, CA, and see and hear these hummers almost year round. I recently watched a PSB special highlighting this courtship display, and now I have seen it in the wild too!!

Reply December 10, 2010 at 7:24 am

Spectacular photos! Capturing the brilliance of the plumage is one thing, but to get the male really pumping up his gorget like that is something else.


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