It's All in the Tail

Male Anna's hummingbirds use their spread tail feathers to intimidate rivals and for an amazing courtship display.

With a stunning clear day, a lot of luck, and some patience I caught my first favorite photograph of 2013. A male Anna's Hummingbird hovered in the sky, checking me out before darting to one of the feeders that George constantly replenishes. I've never gotten such a clear shot of a hummer's spread tail feathers.

Male Anna's use their spread tail feathers to intimidate rivals or threats. They also use the feathers during an amazing courtship display. Have you ever seen a hummingbird fly high up in the air and then dive quickly down? If you heard a "chirp" during the dive, it wasn't a vocalization. Two UC Berkeley students discovered in 2008 that the sound is caused by the bird flaring its tail feathers near the bottom of the dive. According to their research: "At the bottom of the dive, the bird flares its tail for 60 milliseconds. The inner vanes of the bird's two outer tail feathers vibrate in the 50 mph airstream to produce a brief chirp."

And so - a cherished moment and my first favorite photo of the year!

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Kathy C January 15, 2013 at 04:49 AM
Thank you Heidi. I've had a hummer couple nesting on my block for some time and love watching them


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