Thursday, March 26, 2009

The World From Our Balcony 1

We’ve been feeding hummingbirds for about 3 years now. The feeder is hung on our second story balcony convenient to any of the little critters who are always passing through our neighborhood.

The birds pretty much transit through here hanging around for 3 or 4 weeks before moving on. I’m not real sure of the varieties but my Google search suggests that we get a lot of Anna’s and Broadtails. The one thing I am sure of is the difference between males and females. As in much of the animal world, males have brighter plumage and are more distinctive looking than the females and like males the world over try to be the bully boss of everything. The males can get so protective of this little spot of territory that none of the birds gets much time at what we call the “big ugly flower”.

We tend to give the birds descriptive names when identify individuals. We had one scruffy looking one with a growth on its beak we named Durante. Recently there was a really pudgy female we called Big Bertha.

We upgraded the feeder a couple years back to one which has perches so the birds can light and rest while drinking. Sometimes the birds cooperate and let the feeder fill up with 3 or 4 birds and sometimes its as though they’re afraid someone will get more than they will so they chase any other birds away. It can be great fun watching them soar around (I’ve been buzzed many times by hard charging hummingbirds chasing one another). And occasionally they’ll even share and all 4 perches will be active at once. We’ll have anywhere from 3 to 10 birds which come by for a drink at the feeder at any one point in time.

A few months back we had a first which was 5 birds drinking at once (2 sharing one perch). But the best was about a month and a half ago when one evening we counted 10 birds buzzing around the feeder during what we call “the follies” which is at dusk when all the birds want to get their “last call” before heading off to roost. This night there were 10 birds perching or hovering around at one time and we counted 7 on the perches at once. And of course, as so often happens, there’s one more aggressive bird which has to come charging in, pushing and shoving and scatter all the others off the feeder in a burst of whirring, flapping wings.

It’s entertaining and it’s also a reminder of how we interact with one another. There’s plenty of nectar if we take our turn and share. But, you know, there always seems to be one jerk who wants it all for himself and who has to try to prove his self-importance by squawking the loudest and making the biggest fuss. Sound familiar? Yeah, we’ve all seen people like that. We’re not so different from the hummingbirds. We’re just bigger and can’t fly.

But man is it fun to watch these little birds fly around and maneuver. Instant acceleration. Stop and hover on a dime. For the cost of about a half cup of sugar a week, it’s terrific entertainment and a lesson in how to get along (or not get along) with others. Plus, they’ll really let us know by hovering close and squawking if the nectar runs out. I even had one fly into our apartment one day—apparently just to check us out.

That’s a bit of the world from our balcony. The hummingbirds make it a more enjoyable world.

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