Ah, to be back in the warmth and sunshine of northern California, where the roses are blooming and the birdies are singing. I was entertained by a very territorial Anna’s Hummingbird trying to assert control of a profusely blooming Bottlebrush shrub in my mother-in-law’s backyard. The bird sat in the shade of the Bottlebrush “singing” a raspy chortle and making a long train of clicking sounds. It chased, it buzzed over my head and in front of me (too close for my telephoto to focus), and then fed intermittently from the bottlebrush flowers.
Exotic flowering plants have thrived in California with its mild Mediterranean climate, providing Anna’s Hummingbirds — the most common of the western hummers — with ample supplies of nectar almost year-round. Bottlebrush, a member of the Myrtle plant family, is endemic to Australia, but once introduced, has thrived in California backyards as a decorative plant.
Males and females look much alike having a drab gray breast with emerald green back and head feathers. The big difference is the brilliant magenta gorget of neck feathers in the male, only seen when the light strikes them just right.
For a more thorough discussion of the optics of iridescence, with colorful examples of its uses in birds, see an earlier post here.