Wildlife Lessons-Hummingbird Wars


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“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 enticeDSCN3492 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 DSCN3534seems.  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.

 

 

DSCN3496One 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 DSCN3506carefully 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.

 

hummer war

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.

hummer wonder

All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Living From Happiness, 2014-15.  Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only.

48 Replies to “Wildlife Lessons-Hummingbird Wars”

  1. Oh my.
    What an absolute privilege to be able to watch that epic battle.
    The phrase ‘pecking order’ isn’t empty is it?
    While we see and relish lots of birds I will confess to a little avian envy about your orioles and hummingbirds.

  2. How wonderful to be able to watch hummers. That’s a bird we don;t get with us. The battle you described reminds me of Robins. In the winter we get two or three robins in the garden and they are quite happy together. As soon as breeding season starts though they will fight to the death as they become extremely territorial

  3. We typically have two males fighting over the feeder we put out each year. I’ve never noticed that one seems to win so perhaps their territories are large enough to share certain food sources? Fabulous photos. Hummingbirds are some of the hardest to capture and yet most rewarding to watch. I think there’s a lesson in there somewhere….

  4. Nice post!! Fascinating information and fabulous photos. Hummingbirds are so hard to capture in photos form–darn it, I wish they’d sit still more often. I love to watch them in the garden and when the battles begin. Interesting to me that yours are battling now. My experience is that here in Austin, they tend to become territorial a bit later in the summer, which doesn’t really make sense, because it’s about protecting the nesting site. I may not be observing as well as I should though. Thank you so much for your wonderful posts and looking forward to more!!

    1. They battle here when they arrive in May Tina. And I am able to get good shots as the feeder and key nectar plants are placed close to windows where I can capture them in pictures. So glad you liked the post!

  5. We had a hummer nest for about 6 years straight and watched as they had babies. It was such a treat to watch them feed their little ones and then teach them to fly around our back yard. Unfortunately, one year they didn’t return to the nest. It was wonderful while it lasted.

  6. Fantastic post! Our hummers have been few and far between this year so I’m happy to be able to live vicariously through your post. Great photos and video. Thanks very much for sharing these delightful birds.

    1. Oh Anna that is too bad. I wonder why they are more scarce for you. I have noticed many more feeders in our neighborhood and so many more hummers. So glad you enjoyed my hummers.

  7. So interesting. I did not know they were so aggressive. I loved the video. The red on the bird’s neck just shines. I so rarely see hummingbirds this was a real treat. Thank you so much!

  8. Oh, what a fun post, Donna! I can just picture that extended battle and the combatants resting in the shrubbery. Aren’t we glad hummers are so tiny? If they were the size of pigeons we’d be in fear of our lives all the time. We get the black-chinned kind here, which aren’t quite as beautiful as the ruby-throated. They’re just as feisty, though. A couple of years back I had one regular I called Napoleon — he had an extra-short, thick neck and was always starting wars.

  9. Great hummingbird pictures! I’m jealous of your ruby-throated hummers. I primarily have black-chinned hummers in my Central Texas garden, which are lovely as well, but there is something especially magical about the ruby-throated birds. I know what you mean about them being territorial…I usually see the males spend more time tussling and fighting each other off than actually drinking from the feeder. Now that my zinnias are in full bloom, they seem to prefer the natural nectar more than the feeder, but they will still swing by from time to time.

  10. Hello Donna, what a great post on the hummers. Wonderful information and beautiful photos. And I enjoyed your video.
    I look forward to seeing the hummers return to my yard each year, I feel so happy to see them.

    Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Have a happy 4th of July weekend!

  11. I think hummingbirds are so beautiful and I wish we had them in England. I like your footage of the fight and I am glad they survived the assault.

  12. What a story, Donna. I didn’t know hummingbirds are that territorial, all for a good reason as the facts explain…

  13. love the battle of the hummers! We see a few here (now in Oregon) and they are a delight! I’m pretty slow on the button as a photographer, so it will be a miracle if I get any pics of my own. Thank you for sharing your wonderful ones!

    1. I just can’t get enough of them and their interesting behaviors….now to spy a female making a nest and watching babies in the nest would be outstanding.

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