I remember looking at illustrations and photographs of Ruby-topaz Hummingbirds years ago, and just acknowledging their existence. I figured yes, this is a brown hummingbird with some red and gold adornments, alright, what’s next? But the first time I saw it in person – I remember it vividly – a misty morning in south Trinidad, it was feeding on a patch of flowers that was brilliantly lit by the rising sun. Sure enough, it was brown, but where were the adornments that were in almost every illustration of this bird?
And perhaps too quickly for my brain to process, the colours flashed. Almost as if it were taunting me, it’d transform within a split second from a dull, drab, dark brown bird to a blinding jewel. All the images from my memory did no justice to the reason it got its name. Instantly, I was hooked.
On subsequent occasions, I paid close attention to this bird, and noticed that there were many other colours in its spectrum. Who knew that between completely brown to resplendent shimmering gold that there’d be flashes of green? (You’ll have to look really carefully here)
The fact that the colours were so infrequently visible was fascinating. Very much unlike other hummingbirds like the Mangos, Copper-rumped et al – this one was special. What made it even more interesting was the fact that it’d disappear from both Trinidad and Tobago for a few months at the end of each year, only to reappear in January. How odd – this migration is still not completely understood.
After finally getting a photo of the male Ruby-topaz in full flash mode a couple years ago (see here), I realized that capturing the intermediate colours would be even more exciting. Just before full ruby, there is crimson.
Although the female isn’t as striking as her mate, she has that shy, soft beauty that only female birds have.
While feeding, they’re constantly flashing their burnt orange tails to ward off any challengers. Not usually seen while perched (unless sunning) – a good stretch means a good view!
And I almost forgot – that enormous hint – some time ago I posted a photo of something unknown. Here’s the source of the confusion. Well, piece of it.