Connor first noticed the female Anna’s Hummingbird flying under the porch about a month ago (I think), but we weren’t quite sure what it was doing. Over the past couple of days when Rowan has been outside, she got some good looks at it, and said it seemed to be sticking its bill in the gravel. Today when she was out there she said the bird visited under the porch a few times and she was even able to get a little video of it with her camera. This evening I decided to give it a go with mine on a tripod and after a misstep or two, I was able to get a short clip of the hummingbird visiting. As best I can tell, the bird is licking up the grit. Apparently we’re not the first ones to observer female hummingbirds eating such substances:
Various species of hummingbirds, on numerous occasions, have been seen sticking their bills into such things as sand, wood ashes, and seawater. Those who witnessed these events were certain the birds were not eating insects, but were indeed ingesting the item itself. Why would the hummers do this? All of these unusual foodstuffs tend to be high in calcium and may also contain sodium and other minerals. Because the majority of birds noted were female—at least in those instances where the sex of the hummer was mentioned—it has been proposed that the reason for this activity is to replace the calcium and other minerals lost during egg production.
Anna’s Hummingbirds have not been documented nesting in Alaska, but with both males and females having been continuously present for over a year now in Sitka (and I think a couple of other communities in Southeast), it seems likely they have. Perhaps this female has an active nest now, but I’m not really sure how to go about locating it, if so. If anyone finds a hummingbird nest (especially if it’s an Anna’s Hummingbird), I would be very interested to know.