There’s a social dynamic at play. And right now I can hear about the 23rd squabble of the day of several hummies arguing over who gets to sit where.
Lately we’ve had a couple of interesting dominant males. First was Squatter. (We tend to try to give the ones we can identify interesting or descriptive names which have ranged from Durante to Miss Peeps to Butthead). Squatter seemed to think that the feeder belonged to him and him alone. The only time this changed was one day when a Rufous hummingbird (the smallest but most aggressive) came by and spent about an hour kicking his ass!
And after him there was Bomber. Bomber was cool. He would do exactly what his name implies. He would sit on a phone wire about 40 feet away from the feeder and wait. As soon as 3 hummies sat on the perches (not 2 or 4 but 3) he’d launch himself. He’d zoom full speed at the feeder and put the brakes on the last couple of feet scattering the feeding hummies. I watched him do the same thing dozens of times. It was like watching a bowling ball going down the alley and smacking dead solid into the 1-3 pocket exploding pins in all different directions (OK, get that sound going in your head! That’s what always went through mine whenever he’d do that).
It seemed as though he loved doing that. Then he’d chase the birds away. Sometimes the birds would get smart and wait for him to chase the others away and sneak back for a quick chug-a-lug until he reversed course and smacked into the lone hold-out. And, as the photo shows, he also got so he liked to sit on the top of a succulent plant just a couple of feet from the feeder waiting for the dumb birds to try to land on the feeder and drink. Then he only had to fly 2 feet rather than 40.
Bomber only lasted a couple of weeks. Now we’ve got a new bunch. This is the most raucous, obnoxious group of birds yet. They’re incredibly entertaining—and thirsty. There doesn’t seem to be a dominant male so chaos rules the day. And, they’re greedy!
There have been times when it would take 3-4 days for the birds to empty a feeder. We know they’re hungry and that there’s a bunch of them if they empty it in 1 day. Lately they’ve been emptying it twice a day! That’s mainly because there’s 8 birds around and no one’s trying to hog the feeder and chase the rest away.
Now, we’re getting the follies pretty much all day long where there are anywhere from 6-8 birds hovering around—rotating around the feeder like it’s some kind of merry-go-round. These little critters are slurping, pooping machines. And they’re incredibly fun to watch.
A sociologist might have a great time trying to make sense of the dynamic of these birds. I love it when the females decide to fight back against the dominant male. Or when a 2nd male decides he wants to be the ruler. They’ll fight, slapping each other with their wings, pecking their long beaks at each other and sometimes tumble all the way to the ground. A lot of the time they’re more entertaining than anything on TV.
But, I have to go now. It’s 10:30 a.m. and there’s less than a half inch of nectar left so I have to make some more or else they’ll be mad and chewing me out. By the way, if you want to feed hummies, get a feeder with perches for them to sit—they cost less than $10. And, the “Cheap Bastid” recipe for the nectar is ¼ cup of sugar to 1 cup of water plus you can add a drop or so of food color if you want.