Friday, July 12, 2013

A Tale of Two Hummers


Allen's (or Rufous) Hummingbird - photo by my dad
I sat out in the garden the other morning with my coffee, just at sunrise, and observed two small kingdoms, separated by a young oak tree. The red-orange  Keckiella cordifolia kingdom on my left was ruled over by a tiny and fierce orange and green Allen's hummingbird.


Lots of nectar on these Keckiella cordifolia (heartleaf keckiella) blooms

The intense blue-purple Winifred Gilman Sage kingdom on my right was ruled by a hardly less fierce but more vociferous Anna's, which are much more common here.

Anna's magenta head - seen only in the right light
Three Winifred Gilman sage bushes also provide lots of nectar (and there are a few non-native red sages there too)
Tweedledee deedledee deedledee dee  diddledumm.... chuck!-chuck!, the Anna's repeated, signalling his (or her?) territory almost constantly. Not too many interlopers appeared to challenge. She sat on a low oak tree twig, above her (or his) realm. (Photos in this post are from other occasions, other perches.)

Anna's hummingbirds are dull until the light catches them right.
Most of the hummers around here are Anna's. This is the first year I've seen more than an occasional visit from an Allen's. Anna's flash brilliant blue-green, with magenta throats and heads. Here's a photo my dad took some years ago.

What a fine little fellow! I do still fill two feeders daily, as my dad kept this up for ten years, and it's a nice remembrance of him.

The Allen's hummingbird was mostly silent as he sat on his throne, a perch in a bay laurel leaning over the corner of the pool.


Allen's hummingbird (image from this page)


They are smaller in appearance than the Anna's, with upturned cheeky little tails they lower and fan out in to an impressive black-and-white flash of disapproval when challenging usurpers of their realm. Which this particular king did frequently. At least once or twice a minute. Many interlopers came to taste the nectar from the tubular blossoms of the Keckiella cordifolia.



Even one or two other Allen's. All were summarily dismissed by a quick chattering swoop, with at the most a brief noisy dual. "You get off my turf!" the Allen's seemed to say. Then swooped back up to sit calmly in his tree.

The two kings (or queens, but I think they were kings) paid no heed to each other, or to the chickadees that passed through, calling to each other Chickadee, Chickadee-dee-dee, or the bushtits gently tittering to each other. They each seemed completely contained in their separate worlds - though I know that is an illusion -- if any one of them had raised an alarm they all would have reacted!

You can learn more about Allen's here, and more about Anna's here.

I don't know who either Allen or Anna were - do you know?

5 comments:

Jason said...

What fine hummingbirds. We have only a measly single species.

Country Mouse said...

Well I guess one hummingbird species is better than none - in Scotland we didn't (don't) have any - I thought them quite miraculous when I came here. Course the UK has a lot of other interesting birds, many more brightly colored ones than the "little brown birds" I mostly see here -- they are all wonderful though!

LostRoses said...

Beautiful photos! We have only Broad-winged and Rufous here but they sound just as feisty as yours!

Jeff said...

I believe that your mystery plant with the fluffy seed heads is a Mountain Mahogany.

Jeff

Anonymous said...

When it comes to Mexican sage plants our butterflies in Oakland generally are not afraid to stand up for squatters rights against the hummingbirds. However, when I am watering, the playing field is leveled and the fearless hummingbird prefers to have a standoff with me. Gotta love Mother Nature. signed the Mudslinger