[CT Birds] Hummer Behavior

Bruce bka11 at comcast.net
Sat Jul 31 15:36:29 EDT 2010

Here in Ledyard, We have a full fledged Hummer war going on with a minimum 
of eight hummers buzzing around the back yard feeder almost continuously. 
Maybe more but hard to count there are so many.


----- Original Message ----- 
From: <james.bair at snet.net>
To: "CT Birding Listserv" <ctbirds at lists.ctbirding.org>
Sent: Friday, July 30, 2010 2:13 PM
Subject: Re: [CT Birds] Hummer Behavior

Dear Tammy,

As others have written, hummingbirds (certainly the Ruby-Throats) are 
notoriously territorial. Most of us who observe them have similar anecdotes. 
We see photographs from Alabama or the Southwest of a dozen hummers at a 
feeder or something, and it looks like they are all humming Kumbyah. But 
those Alabama photos are normally of starving migrants who have just crossed 
the Gulf of Mexico, and those Arizona or California photos are often 
post-breeding dispersal. Even then, the people who observe the feeders note 
that there is usually some kind of pecking order. A couple of years ago I 
happened to be birding along the shore in late August or early September 
when a lot of hummingbirds were migrating. Quite a few passed by in the 
course of the day, but like Hawks, they were all flying singly. When people 
see rare hummingbirds--like the Rufous this week in Stamford--they are 
normally single indivduals. Back a few years ago when two Calliopes showed 
up in New York City, people noted that they were first-year birds, so they 
were likely nest mates, or at least had not had any breeding experience so 
the territoriality had not kicked in yet.

My parents in New Hartford used to put out a hummingbird feeder, and so did 
their next door neighbors. All summer my parents would have one hummingbird 
come, usually a female. Their next door neighbors would have a male all 
summer. They were probably mated, but since the male hummers are not 
involved in rearing the young, we noted that each one had its own territory. 
Hummingbirds will chase just about anything that flies out of its immediate 
territory even hawks and crows.

Having said that, I have noted in my backyard a shaky truce. The alpha 
female who has successfully chased away another female and a male all summer 
seems to have had a change. Two weeks ago she was at the feeder when the 
male came by. She started at him, but he "clicked," and she calmed down and 
perched on the clothesline next to the feeder. He then proceeded to do a 
mating "dance" in front of her with the clicks and parabola that you see 
illustrated in the bird books. Since then I have seen them at least 
tolerating one another on two occasions, and on one occasion the male chased 
the female away.Still, it seems like they still have a pretty wide comfort 
zone as long as they are on territory.

Jim Bair

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