For the Birds: Feisty hummingbirds steal the August show

Photo by Chris Bosak A Ruby-throated Hummingbird perches on a feeder in Danbury, CT, summer 2015.

I’ve seen plenty of hummingbird feeders in New England with a dozen or more of the tiny birds zipping around the ports. 

I stayed at a small motel in Errol several years ago and was amazed at the hummingbird feeder near the office. The birds were constantly at the feeder, from sunup to sundown, and there were a lot of them. The birds were not necessarily cooperative with each other, but at least they were tolerant.

That has never been the case with hummingbirds that visit my yard. All of my hummingbirds are jerks. I’m joking, of course. They are just territorial. Very territorial.

Such is the case this year again. I saw a female hummingbird off and on throughout this spring and early summer. Over the last two weeks, however, I’ve seen her every day and several times each day. 

I’ve also seen a male a few times, but his visits to the feeder are short-lived. As soon as he settles onto the perch and dives his bill into the port, the female appears out of nowhere and buzzes right by his head. The male takes off for cover, followed by the female making sure he knows that the feeder is off limits.

This is the same scenario that has played out for years at my hummingbird feeders. Whether it was my urban townhouse, my house in the woods, or my current suburban house, it’s been the same story. One very territorial and aggressive hummingbird rules the roost.

A few years ago, I tried putting out two feeders: one in the front yard and one in the backyard. That worked very well, but not perfectly. It seemed to give the non-dominant birds a little more time to drink, but the aggressor eventually claimed both feeders and protected them both.

My current scenario is a bit different but is slightly more effective. I have only one feeder out, but my next-door neighbor has three hummingbird feeders. The most territorial hummingbird has claimed mine and defends it at all times. When she is not drinking from the feeder, she is often perched on a wire directly above it keeping watch. 

She sometimes ventures over to the neighbor’s feeders, but it’s a tough task claiming four feeders, so the other birds can usually drink in peace next door. Those other birds still sometimes try to get to my feeder with very limited success.

Sure, I’d love to have a feeder with a dozen hummingbirds buzzing around. But I get where my territorial female bird is coming from. She worked hard raising young this spring and summer and doesn’t want a bunch of other birds invading her turf and drinking her sugar water (or nectar from the nearby petunia.) 

Even the tiniest of birds can be awfully fierce.

Photo by Chris Bosak A ruby-throated hummingbird hovers around salvia blooms in New England, September 2020.
Photo by Chris Bosak A female ruby-throated hummingbird sits on a rope in a backyard in New England, August 2020.

4 thoughts on “For the Birds: Feisty hummingbirds steal the August show

  1. I have 2 hummingbird feeders that are about 6 feet apart. There are 2 different families on opposite sides of the yard in the woods. The opposing families frequently chase the others away, which is entertaining. The other day, 2 hummingbirds perched next to each other on the feeder. I assume they were from the same nest. All usually migrate south by the second week of September.

    Liked by 1 person

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