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Most folks would think by the end of September hummingbirds would be long gone from the valleys of western Montana, but not so. There is one species that occasionally shows in late fall — only 33 times, according to the Montana Natural Heritage database — and that’s the Anna’s hummingbird.

I had a juvenile show as a new yard bird on Sept. 29 during the early snowstorm that blanketed much of the west side of the Rocky Mountains and gave the Upper Clark Fork valley 2 to 3 inches of snow. The juvenile reappeared on Sept. 30 and Oct. 2. On Oct. 7 we briefly had an adult female at our feeder. The female has continued to show on and off and was last seen Oct. 23.

Most of the 33 observations in the database were made in September, October, a few in November and one record in December. There is also a February observation. There was one record in 2015, none in 2016 or 2017, and one in 2018. To have both a juvenile and an adult female at our home this fall is indeed rare.

The adult male can be separated from other hummingbirds by a short straight bill, red crown and throat, which sometimes appears black in poor light. They also have a white eyebrow that extends down the side of the head to the neck. The back is green, the belly gray. The tail extends beyond the blackish wings. The female has a red central throat patch, white over the eye, and a grayish belly. Juveniles are short-billed and grayish with green spots. They also have the white above the eye.

The photo with this article is of an adult male that I took Oct. 14, 2014, in Deer Lodge. The other photo is of a juvenile and the white above the eye is just visible.

Anna’s are year-round along the Pacific Coast from Washington to California with some migrating to Mexico in winter. Their summer range extends into most of California and the southwest edge of Nevada.

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A few migrate north in spring along the coast of British Columbia into coastal Alaska. It is assumed that as these Anna’s migrate south to southern coastal areas and Mexico, a few get off course and end up in Montana. Most sightings are west of the Divide, as the mountains typically become a barrier for migrating farther east. Juveniles are found in Montana more often than adults. One theory as to why there are more juveniles is that this is their first journey south and it is easier for them to become lost. Another theory is that storms with prevailing winds out of the west or northwest probably cause them to drift inland as they fly south.

So next fall don’t be in a hurry to take your hummingbird feeder down. You just might get a good look at an Anna’s hummingbird! It’s a life bird for many who bird in Montana.

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Gary Swant of Deer Lodge taught biological sciences at Powell County High School for 25 years. After retirement he founded GoBirdMontana, www.gobirdmontana.com, an environmental consulting and bird guide service. He can be reached via email at birdmt@charter.net. This column features bird species of the Upper Clark Fork River Valley from Butte to Garrison. Swant hopes the column will inspire people to take an interest in observing birds.

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