Hummingbird’s Flashing Breast of Feathers
Hummingbirds are known for their prowess in flight. With similar speed, male hummingbirds can change the color of their gorget feathers (located around the upper breast, throat and face) in the blink of an eye. The term “gorget” was first coined to describe the protective metal collars knights-in-armor wore around their throats.
The hummingbird’s gorget is plated, with throat feathers reflecting and refracting light waves to create its iridescence. The color can change with feather wear and sun exposure. The function of the gorget extends beyond aesthetic display. The feathers are displayed in mating rituals, making up for the male hummingbird’s lack of vocal ability. It is also used to threaten territory intruders. The different species of hummingbirds can also be identified by their gorgets. Other species that share this characteristic are peacocks, the purple-throated fruit crow and the chukar partridge.
To see this iridescent display up close, attract your neighborhood hummingbirds right to your window!