Beak of the Week: Photos don’t do an Anna’s hummingbird justice


Looking at a photo of an Anna’s hummingbird, the most common of these small, pollinating birds in Washington, doesn’t do them justice.

Males and females alike have an iridescent, greenish gray shine across their backs. Males boast a flashy, metallic magenta face and throat in the right light, which is used to get females’ attention. But, the movement of the bird and the angle of light makes this a difficult phenomenon to witness.

After photographing a male Anna’s turning his head to reveal this bold color, Arizona photographer Steven Kessel wrote the following in his blog: “The pictures don’t really do justice to what I observed. With each change of position his head and neck showed different amounts of iridescence. It was an incredible display.”

Hummingbirds only live in the Western Hemisphere. The Anna’s hummingbird is the only one that sticks around throughout Washington’s winters. Others, such as the rust-colored Rufous hummingbird (a previous Beak of the Week), migrate.

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, hummingbirds are the smallest warm-blooded animals. They eat half their body weight in food each day to conserve enough energy for their fast-paced lives: they can reach up to 60 miles per hour. With their rapid wings, they are the only birds that can fly backward and straight up and down. 

See Kessel’s photographs and learn more about hummingbirds’ plumage at