Anna's Hummingbird

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     For 27 years I've been lucky enough to run my photography business from home here in San Diego. It's been a great way to raise my son and has given me a lot of control over my work and play schedule.

     In the spring of 2012, I was treated to an interesting diversion just outside our window. A hummingbird had nested in an oleander next to the back porch, at eye-level just 15 feet from the sliding glass door. So, I mounted a telephoto lens on a tripod and photographed the nest periodically during the days from April 28 - May 30, 2012. I printed a couple of favorite shots, but then quickly moved on to my regular assignment work.  

     Recently, I've had some time to revisit and complete this fun project. What follows is a dozen or so photos and short videos chronicling the month-long nesting experience, from egg to first flight.

     It has brought me some peace in this challenging time, and I hope it does the same for you. 

April 28, 2012 

     In the spring of 2012 this Anna's Hummingbird darted out of an oleander next to my back porch as I walked by.  A walnut-sized nest caught my eye, and inside there were two eggs, no bigger than a couple of navy beans. This species of hummingbird lives mostly along the North American Pacific Coast, and into Arizona. 

(Click to enlarge photos)

Mother Hummer Eggs! Nesting Mama JThummer009JThummer009


May 11, 2012  - New Life!

     Within two weeks, the chicks have hatched. 

Hatchlins 1 JThummer010JThummer010


May 14, 2012 - "Awwww & Shock!" or "Mom the Impaler" - Video

     The female feeds the young by sticking her bill deep into the fledgling's mouth, regurgitating tiny insects caught in flight mixed with nectar. 

(Important: To get back to the main page after video click top right x icon)

May 14 feedinglow

May 21, 2012

     Within a week of some very scary-looking feedings, the fledglings' feathers start to come in, and home is already starting to get snug. 

May 24, 2012 - In-Flight Refueling

The fledglings are so big now that the mother can no longer perch for feedings.  JThummer015JThummer015
May 29, 2012 - Preening and Flight Training 

The young birds are spending a lot of time preening in their now cramped quarters, and for the first time I captured them exercising their wings.  

Preening  - Video

This action helps clean and reposition displaced feathers as the fledglings practice their earliest efforts to fly.
May 29 flightlow
First FlightFirst Flight

Gentleman, Start Your Engines! - Video

So, it seems this is how at least hummingbirds learn to fly - they grab the bottom of the nest with their claws and turn the engines on. So cool!

May 30sm

May 30, 2012 - A Final Portrait

     It's been just over a month since I first discovered a couple of tiny eggs in a backyard nest, and already these birds have matured enough to move on. I took this "portrait" of them in the morning, and by afternoon they were gone. Later that day I caught a last glimpse of one of our little friends on a nearby fence before he buzzed away.


JThummer019JThummer019 Eight years later we continue to enjoy the hummingbirds that visit our feeder daily. Set one up on your balcony or porch and they'll probably find you.

Please feel free to share your comments and this link if you had a good experience.


UPDATE! September 2021

Hummingbird Battle!

The high-pitched chirps of a mini air-assault on our San Diego back porch yesterday shows just how aggressive and territorial these tiny birds can be. Here, the challenger hovers and postures over our resident "bully" who relentlessly guards his three feeders.

Hummingbird BattleYoutube


J.T. MacMillan is a long-time San Diego-based photographer who got his start in metro-newspaper work and has been providing editorial, commercial, portrait and event photography services to some of San Diego’s most recognized public and private agencies for 27 years. To learn more and see other samples of our work click on the links below:

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Michelle Manner(non-registered)
I'm so blessed to have a new little next just 6 feet away from my remote desk - large window to just watch this whole process. I believe she laid her eggs this weekend as she is sitting in her nest more frequently now and it is solid, around the branch and all. I'm so happy my sister Molly shared this blog with me, your pix are phenomenal...and if only I had a nicer camera, but the real life watch is just amazing.
What lovely work. A beautiful eyeful for the soul just when we needed it! Thank you so much!
Amazing. Brought tears to my eyes. What a vision of spring.
Jill jenkins(non-registered)
This is so cool Jay! I will share it with others, it is educational and a delight to watch.
Mark Rauch(non-registered)
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