Calypte Annæ

Anna’s Calypte

The table lands of Mexico and California

When studying the diversified forms and colouring of the Trochilide, I have frequently been struck with the fact that those districts or countries having a metalliferous character are tenanted by species of Humming Birds which are more than ordinarily brilliant and glittering.

This is especially the case with the species inhabiting Mexico and California: in illustration of this assertion, I may cite the three Californian species, Selasphorus rufus, Calypte Costæ, and the present bird, C. Annæ, all of which are unequalled, for the rich metallic brilliancy of certain parts of their plumage, by any other members of the family. The two latter, C. Costæ and C. Annæ, have not only the throat, but the entire head as glitteringly resplendent as if they had been dipped in molten metal. Now whether there be any influence exerted by inorganic upon organic nature, is an enigma which will probably remain unsolved for some time to come; certain it is that it cannot be explained by any of the natural laws at present known to us; and, after all, it may only be one of those remarkable coincidences which so frequently occur; still I trust I may be excused for calling attention to a point which appeared to me to be of much interest.

The very lovely bird here represented, and which has been named in honour of Anna, Duchess of Rivoli, ranges over the whole of the table-lands of Mexico, and throughout California to the base of the Rocky Mountains in North-Western America.

I am indebted to Dr. Gambel, of Philadelphia, who has had opportunities of observing this bird in its native wilds, for the following interesting extract from his “Notes on the Birds of California”:—

A very abundant and interesting species, numbers passing the winter in California; at such times inhabiting sheltered hill-sides and plains, where at all seasons a few bushy plants are in flower, and afford it a scanty subsistence. They appear, however, in greater numbers about the latter part of February and during the month of March; the country is soon carpeted with flowers, and the Anna Humming Bird, revelling among their sweets, commences the duty of rearing its young. About the Pueblo, the vineyards and gardens are its favourite resort, forming its delicate downy nest in a small flowering bush, or some concealed spot about the fence. In April and May these may be found in almost every garden.

In other parts it attaches its nest almost exclusively to a low, horizontal branch of the evergreen oak (Quercus agrifolia), so common throughout the country; the nest is small, being about an inch in depth, and one and a quarter in diameter; it is not very thick, and is formed in the most delicate manner of pappus and down of various plants, held together and matted into a soft felt with spiders’ webs, which latter I have frequently observed them collecting for the purpose, in the spring, along hedges aut fence-rows, and at first supposed they were only searching them for the gnats and small insects which might be entangled; but in a nest which I now have, the base is formed of a few dried male aments of the oak, and which, with the adjoining felt-like matting of pappus, is agglutinated and bound around the twig with a thick layer of spider’s web. The eggs, as usual, are two, white and elliptical. The note resembles that of the Rufous Humming Bird, and is a slender chep, frequently repeated; but during the breeding season they are very pugnacious, and the little combatants dart through the trees like meteors, uttering a loud and repeated twittering scold. It has the same habit also that has been remarked in the Rufous Humming Bird, that of ascending in clear weather to a considerable height in the air, and then descending with great rapidity, uttering at the same time a peculiar note. Its ruff too, like that of rufus, is erectile.

Nuttall, who brought this species from California, did not procure the male, but saw it frequently, and supposed it to have a yellow spot on the crown. I discovered that that which deceived him in this respect was the glutinous pollen of a tubular flower upon which it feeds, adhering to the rigid feathers of the crown, and making it look as if it really had a yellow head. I have also seen the bill for half its length covered in the same manner.

The sexes differ very considerably in colour, the female being destitute of the fine metallic hues which adorn the head and throat of the male.

The male has the head, ear-coverts, throat, and the elongated ruff-like feathers on the sides of the neck, brilliant metallic crimson; all the upper surface and wing-coverts golden green; wings purplish brown; central tail-feathers bronzy green, the remainder dark brown with paler internal edges; breast and centre of the abdomen grey; flanks golden green; vent and thighs white; under tail-coverts dull green, edged with grey; bill black; feet blackish brown.

The female has the head greyish brown; all the upper surface, wing-coverts, and central tail-feathers, golden green; basal portion of the lateral tail-feathers grey, succeeded by golden green; their apical portion being black, and the two onter ones on each side tipped with white; wings purplish brown; under surface grey, washed with green on the sides of the neck and flanks, and with a few brilliant fiery-red feathers in the centre of the throat.

The Plate represents two males and a female of the natural size. The plant is the Ceanothus floribundus.


  • Ornismya Anna, Less. Hist. Nat. des Ois. Mou., p. 205. pl. 74.—Ib. Traité d’Orn., p. 981.
  • Trochilus Anna, Jard. Nat. Lib. Humming Birds, vol. i. p. 93. pl. 6.—Aud. Birds of Amer., vol. iv. pl. ccccxxv.—Ib. Orn. Biog., vol. v. p. 238.—Ib. Syn. of Birds of N. Amer., p. 170.—Reichenb. Troch. enumer., p. 10.
  • Mellisuga Anna, Gray and Mitch. Gen. of Birds, vol. i. p. 113, Mellisuga, sp. 61.
  • Selasphorus Anna, Bonap. Consp. Gen. Av., p. 82, Selasphorus, sp. 2.—Ib. Rev. et Mag. de Zool. 1854, p. 257.
  • Calliphlox anna, Gambel, Notes on Californian Birds.
  • Atthis Anna, Reichenb. Aufz. der Colibris, p. 12.
  • Trochilus icterocephalus, Nutt. Man. Orn., vol. i. 2nd Edit. p. 712.

More hummingbirds in the genus Calypte

Poster preview

Get a poster

Featuring all 422 illustrated species from John Gould’s A Monograph of the Trochilidæ, or Family of Humming-Birds arranged by color.