Like a sensitive personality who appears shy and colorless until provoked, and then erupts in brilliant displays, the Anna’s Hummingbird shows its magenta armor only in just the right light. In the video, the bird’s head looks grey or black most of the time, with only hints of color. Then suddenly a different bird appears, looking like a creature of the tropical rainforest, where all feathers are iridescent and the only sin is to be dull. Only the male Anna’s has iridescent color over its whole crown.
Because hummingbirds are so small, we’re inclined to think of them as feathered little lambs, loving and peaceful. They are actually fiercely territorial. A closeup of this Anna’s when in full magenta display shows what looks like a very angry bird. If it were big, you would want to stay clear of it.
The story of how this bird got its’ name is a bit vague. It appears that John James Audubon, on a visit to the French imperial court in 1828, met Anna Massena, the Duchess of Rivoli and wife of Duke Francois Massena, an amateur ornithologist. Audubon was charmed, but that’s not how the bird got its name. That happened only years later, when Rene Lesson, a surgeon and also an ornithologist who was writing a book on hummingbirds, found a skin of this previously unnamed bird in Duke Massena’s collection. That sounds far-fetched, but that’s the story as told by nature journalist Nick Neely here.