Ask the Naturalist

What’s up with this Hummingbird?

December 5, 2013

Palo Alto based reader Nina Kaloostian wrote in with this question about the different looking hummingbird, pictured above:

“This hummingbird is very odd. Any idea what’s happening with his face? I took the pic in Palo Alto about a month ago. He comes around often. Thanks!”

Bob Power, executive director of the Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society, explained that this is a either a male Anna’s hummingbird going through its annual molt cycle or, a juvenile male going through his first molt to become an adult male. Females do not grow the colorful crown feathers displayed.

“For Anna’s Hummingbird, all feathers are replaced at least once per year,” Power said. “Most of us don’t see this happen so clearly as in your photo, but I believe you are showing us many facial feather shafts mixed in with full and partial feathers.

“It’s a unique look,” he said, “for our ‘normal’ Anna’s hummingbird.”

A bird? A bug? Something strange in the natural world nearby? Ask us and we’ll find the answer!

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