“may my faith always be
at the end of the day
like a hummingbird…returning
to its favorite flower.”
― Sanober Khan
Every spring as the garden renews, we wait in anticipation for flora and fauna to return. And just as we know that when the trees begin to leaf out the orioles will return, we know right on their heels will be the Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds returning.
There is something so magical about this tiny bird that we do everything we can to entice them to live here for the season. I plant many native flowers that they love including monarda, and bulbs like gladioli that will keep them happy and nourished with nectar. And we make sure spider webs and garden debris are still around for their nests….they also love to use the lichen on our trees to camouflage their nests.
Most importantly, we put up a feeder. In fact we keep the oriole feeder and hummingbird feeders next to one another as the hummers will grab a quick drink from the oriole feeder as well. So just as the trees sport their new coat of green, two feeders are filled with sweetened water, and placed on the shepherds hook just off the patio in full view of our back windows.
And right on cue, the orioles arrived followed in a day or two by the male hummingbirds coming back to where they had found food sources before. Soon after the females returned to their nesting sites to once again spruce up their old nests and begin again.
Hummingbirds never cease to amuse us, and they each have their own personalities it seems. But the most interesting behaviors, are those of the first males staking out their territory. And there are no birds quite so territorial about food sources than male hummingbirds. In fact, we often see one who will dominate the feeders, lurking in the big trees nearby to swoop down and chase any other hummers from the feeders.
But this year was most unusual as we witnessed an epic battle as soon as two male hummers found the feeder. I must say I thought it was going to be a fight to the death as the battle raged on for a couple of hours with neither bird relenting.
One male had made it to the garden first, and found and claimed the feeder. It was his, and as all others discovered he was not sharing. The fight started when a second male was taking a drink from the feeder. Soon after, the first male swooped down, and attacked the male at the feeder. In the past when a male hummer attacked others at the feeder, the other hummers retreated quickly not wanting to go to war over the sugary liquid. They would then wait until later to go to the feeder, or find nourishment amongst the many nectar-filled flowers.
But this time was different. The second male was not thwarted. As the first hummer went to the feeder and was drinking, the second hummer came back and attacked the first male. And with that action, the fight was on. Each bird swooping down to attack the other once they came near the feeder.
You can see in some of the pictures, that the birds would crane their necks and look carefully before they tried to get a drink…..I don’t think I have witnessed a display like this since seeing 2 year olds fighting over a toy…..or a swarm of people fighting over money dropped into the street. You can see the damage inflicted to the back of the one of the birds here.
The hummers took many breaks in the viburnum bush nearby. It was funny to see them both sitting in the same bush, and resting for periods of time like in a boxing match. After watching on and off for a couple of hours, the battle ended with one bird the victor. Although I have not witnessed one dominant male attacking others at the feeders since the battle, so perhaps they limped off calling it a draw, but not likely.
And while we hope all nature lives in harmony in our garden, there are battles that are waged for the critter’s survival and not because they are greedy. And so it is with hummingbirds.
Here are some interesting facts about Hummingbirds:
Hummingbirds are a symbol of love, but do not seem to live in peace and harmony with each other. Of course there is an important reason for the hummers being so territorial:
- The male hummer claims a territory and then breeds with several females. The females then use the territory to nest and raise their young.
- The males will chase off all other males to protect their females and the nests.
- And they lay claim to this territory for food for themselves and their large extended family.
- Interestingly, males have nothing to do with making the nest, caring for the eggs or raising the young. No wonder the females look exhausted.
I did try to get a short video of the birds but once I figured out how to get the camera to focus, the battle had ended. So you can see the birds swooping each other, but they are not in focus.
With this wildlife story, I am joining in the meme Wildlife Wednesday hosted by Tina@My Gardener Says that happens the first Wednesday of every month, and with Saturday’s Critters hosted by Eileen@Viewing nature with Eileen that happens every Saturday. It is a great way to see what is happening in nature around the world every week.
I leave you with another thought about nature and all its wonders. Feel free to download the photo and share.