Anna’s Ablaze

Anna’s Hummingbird males are famous for their color change. In most lights, their head and neck appear black or dark grey. But with just the right light at the right angle, that black turns into a blazing neon pink or magenta. This day I got lucky and captured the color change on video. I’ve slowed it down in the video clip above to show it better.

The feathers don’t actually change color. The bird isn’t like a chameleon, which can modify its skin pigment. It has to do with the angle of view. Here’s an effort at explanation, using an oil slick on water as illustration: from one angle it looks black, from another it shines with rainbow hues. Read on.

Here’s a picture I took of the same bird with its head and neck in transition between dark and red:

Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna)

The females, as is the case with most birds, have a less spectacular feather coat. They may have a small patch of color at their throat, or not, and are generally dressed in subdued tones. Yet they do all the work of nesting, brooding, and feeding the young.

The Anna’s has benefited greatly from the modern import of Mediterranean plant species. According to the Cornell bird lab,

In the first half of the 20th century, the Anna’s Hummingbird bred only in northern Baja California and southern California. The planting of exotic flowering trees provided nectar and nesting sites, and allowed the hummingbird to greatly expand its breeding range.
Anna’s Hummingbird male (Calypte anna)

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