Thursday, August 27, 2009

Life According to Hummingbirds

Some of you may or may not know this, but I am a huge bird-watcher. I blame it on my dad. Growing up he was always pointing out one bird or another. Like any good teen, I paid no attention. It seems, though, that some of his influence has rubbed off on my in spite of my best intentions. I too find myself pointing out random birds to friends. I have even been known to go out with binoculars in hand SPECIFICALLY to look for birds. And, the piece de resistance is that I also supply my very own bird feeders once I bought my house.

This year for the first time I decided to put up hummingbird feeders. I had never done this before, but when I saw one hovering like a helicopter over some flowers in my yard I decided to go for it. I have had this feeder up for more than a year with limited activity, but for some reason within the last few weeks, the activity at the one I have has significantly picked up.

What I find really funny about this particular feeder is that there are no less than four hummingbirds all vying for this feeder. I had no idea hummingbirds were this territorial. Seriously. One of them perches on a branch in a tree in my neighbor's yard lying in wait lest another nefarious hummingbird decide to partake of HIS feeder.

The war over this feeder has me a bit fascinated. So, tonight, I decided to watch the drama unfold. I grabbed a lawn chair and parked myself close enough to the feeder to see everything, but far enough away so that I would not be in the way. This was actually closer than you might think. (As a side note, I don't think hummingbirds have that great of eyesight as they either didn't notice me at all, or were to preoccupied to care.)

At any rate, the one particular hummingbird who has decided that this feeder is HIS was perched up in the tree, and I could literally see two other hummingbirds in other trees waiting for his back to be turned to make their move. The dive-bombing and squabbling (yes, hummingbirds squabble) and flying at each other and around the yard commenced. One of the other males was a little more bold than the other and worked really hard to get the other away and for a good half an hour I watched these three males argue over the feeder.

At one point, the "alpha" male after chasing off the other two males perched right next to the feeder singing in the glee of victory. This lasted about ten seconds before another male came back again to try to get a taste in.

It was interesting to watch the tactics of one of the males. He would fly around a tree, and dip down so that the hummingbird in the tree could not see him until he was already at the feeder. Sometimes this tactic would work and the alpha would not notice for a bit, allowing him to get in a few sips.

You may remember at the beginning of this post I mentioned that there were four hummingbirds, yet I have only talked about three. That's because the fourth hummingbird is a female who has a very different tactic for getting some nectar.

She sits up in a branch of a tree and waits for the other three males to be so preoccupied chasing each other around and THEN she makes her move. While the other three are off fighting and flying all over tarnation in an effort to prevent the others from drinking from the feeder, she then moves in and drinks her fill.

I think there's a bigger lesson here....not quite sure what it is yet. :0)

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