Seeing a hummingbird in your garden is always a delight. But the pleasure can be even greater if you learn more about the birds you see. Both Costa’s hummingbirds and Anna’s hummingbirds are beautiful and astounding birds. So let’s learn a little more about each and their differences.
What is a Costa’s Hummingbird?
Costa’s hummingbird (Calypte costae) is a tiny bird fairly common in the Southwestern United States and Baja California and an occasional vagrant visitor elsewhere.
This hummingbird was named after Louis Marie Pantaleon Costa de Beauregard. Costa was a Sardinian patriot, statesman, military commander, historian, and amateur archaeologist who was also fond of collecting hummingbirds. He was born in 1806 and died in 1864.
What is an Anna’s Hummingbird?
Anna’s hummingbird is a medium-sized bird species that goes by the Latin name Calypte anna. It was named after Anna Massena, the Duchess of Rivoli.
Anna’s hummingbirds are found along the western coast of North America, from southern Canada to northern Baja California, and inland to southern and central Arizona, extreme southern Nevada and southeastern Utah, and western Texas.
What’s the Difference Between a Costa’s Hummingbird and an Anna’s Hummingbird?
Both of these birds might be encountered in the western United States, especially in the southwest. So, identifying a hummingbird in your garden means finding out a little more about both of these species, including their differences.
Where They Are Found
You might be looking at either of these species along the coast of California or in the deserts of the southwest. Costa’s hummingbirds are found in arid, brushy deserts and nearby gardens. You might also encounter Anna’s hummingbirds in the gardens.
Further north, along the Pacific coastline and for some distance inland, you are far more likely to encounter Anna’s hummingbirds since these are the most common hummingbirds in this region.
However, Costa’s hummingbirds sometimes head further north and have been encountered in the Pacific Northwest. They have even ventured as far as Alaska and British Columbia, Canada, even though they are usually restricted in their range to the southwest.
Is Costa’s Hummingbird rare?
The population of Costa’s hummingbirds is stable, and there are no known threats. The IUCN describes them as a species of least concern. The further north you are, the rarer sightings of these hummingbirds will be. Though in the southwest desert regions, they are relatively common to see.
Is Anna’s Hummingbird rare?
The population of Anna’s hummingbirds is believed to be relatively stable, at around 1.5 million birds. The birds are not endangered and have expanded their range northward since the 1970s. It is the only species of hummingbird in North America that has actually grown its population since 1970.
Differences in Size Between a Costa’s Hummingbird and an Anna’s Hummingbird
- Length: 3–3.5 in (7.6–8.9 cm)
- Weight: 3.05 g for males and 3.22 g for females
- Wingspan: 4.33 in (11 cm)
- Length: 3.9 in (10 cm)
- Weight: 0.1-0.2 oz (3-6 g)
- Wingspan: 4.7 in (12 cm)
As you can see, one key difference between these two species is their size. Costa’s hummingbird is a little smaller. And there is a difference between the size of the male and female Costa’s hummingbirds (the female being a little heavier). In contrast, both genders of Anna’s hummingbirds are approximately the same size.
Differences in Appearance Between a Costa’s Hummingbird and an Anna’s Hummingbird
A male Costa’s hummingbird has an iridescent purple throat patch that flares out along the sides of the neck, a short tail, and a hunched posture when perched.
A male Anna’s is the only North American hummingbird species with a reddish pink crown and gorget. However, these are not always intensely colored and, depending on the light, may sometimes appear a dark or even black hue.
Aside from seeing the red rather than purple iridescence, you can also tell these two birds apart by their size and tail. An Anna’s hummingbird’s tail extends further past the winds when perched.
Female Costas have greenish backs, whitish underparts, a white eyebrow stripe, and greyish cheek patches.
Female and juvenile male Anna’s hummingbirds have a dull green crown, a grey throat with or without red iridescence, a grey chest and belly, and a dark, rounded tail with white tips on the outer feathers.
Though the females look more similar than the males of either species, you can tell them apart by the red iridescence sometimes seen at the center of the Anna’s hummingbird’s throat and by the length of the tail.
Differences in Behavior
Anna’s hummingbirds live and breed year-round in much of their range, though they migrate from some more northern areas to the south for winter.
Costa’s hummingbirds are found year-round only in the far southwest and breed only in a much smaller region. You stand the best chance of seeing them in the Sonoran and Mojave deserts between February and June, and May is the peak time along the California coastline.
Costa’s hummingbird tends to be a less aggressive species and, due to their smaller size, can be bullied off feeders by other hummingbirds. Therefore, if you live in their range, place separate hummingbird feeders off to one side and plant flowering sage or desert native plants and other shrubs to attract them and give them a chance to feed in your garden.
What’s the Difference Between a Costa’s Hummingbird and a Black Chinned Hummingbird?
Black-chinned hummingbirds, Archilochus alexandri, have a much more extensive range than Costa’s hummingbird and can be seen across much of the southwest and western US. They typically migrate and don’t remain year-round.
Black-chinned hummingbird males are slightly larger than Costa’s hummingbirds, with a more elongated posture and a longer bill. They have a very dark throat that often looks black, though it is actually dark purple. And the throat patch does not extend to the sides like a mustache as it does on Costa’s hummingbird.
Female and immature male Black-chinned hummingbirds have a longer bill and a slight peachy color on their flanks that cannot be seen on Costa’s hummingbird females and juveniles.
What’s the Difference Between a Costa’s Hummingbird and a Broad-tailed Hummingbird?
The Broad-tailed hummingbird breeds in high elevation locations with summer meadows and is seen only during a relatively brief period in the US, between late May and early August.
A male Broad-tailed hummingbird has a pinkish rather than purple throat patch, and the patch does not have the distinctive mustache-like side flares of Costa’s males.
The adult female and immature Costa’s hummingbirds have a primarily clean throat, while the throat is mostly green-stippled on the Broad-tailed hummingbird. Broad-tailed hummingbird females and juveniles also have peachy flanks, contrasting with the grayish flanks of the Costas.
What’s the Difference Between a Costa’s Hummingbird and a Caliope Hummingbird?
The Calliope hummingbird, Selasphorus calliope, breeds in chilly northwestern mountains, meadows, and open forests, migrating yearly from Mexico and back again. On their spring migration, they are more commonly seen fleetingly along the coast, while in fall, they are more commonly seen along the Rocky Mountains.
The male Calliope hummingbird has a streaked pink throat, unlike the solid purple throat of Costa’s hummingbird. They are also smaller in size.
The females have a peach flushed flank, unlike the Costas’ sides which are grayish in color.
Their small size and swift movements make hummingbirds not always easy to identify and get to know. But the effort is worthwhile if you love watching these birds in your garden. There are many amazing things about hummingbirds to discover, whichever hummingbirds you happen to see where you live.