Saturday, December 1, 2007

Hummingbird Wars

So, a few weeks ago I finally managed to figure out a way to hang the hummingbird feeder off the balcony rail, rather than having it on a branch of the tree out back. This also has the advantage of moving it away from the suet feeder, which attracts much larger birds. And we were happy to see that it didn't take long for the hummingbird to find its new spot. In fact, we see it much more often now than before, since it's just outside the kitchen window. But we also quickly noticed that we have at least three different hummingbirds coming to the same feeder, and that two of them were squabbling over it. Since I'd heard hummingbirds are highly territorial, it seemed a good idea to buy a second feeder just like the first, which I hung on the opposite end of the same dowel supporting the first feeder -- that is, about four feet away.
Not far enough, I'm now realizing. Today we saw two hummingbirds fighting over the same feeder. It was an amazing sight: they dive-bombed each other, dashed about back and forth, and I think in a few case deliberately bumped into each other. It was like to angry giant bees going at it, or baby stirges; I even imagined that the other birds were staying safely out of the way as they whizzed by. So, in the interests of peace and harmony, this afternoon I rigged up another dowel and moved the second feeder to the other end of the balcony. Perhaps fifteen or twenty feet will be enough room that they can share. We'll soon know: the third hummingbird, the one not involved in today's acrobatics, came up while I was setting up the newer feeder in its new place. Nice to find that they don't consider me a threat -- I was actually within about two feet of it at one point -- though this may just mean they know I'm old and slow (as indeed are all humans, by hummingbird standards).
So, we'll see how it goes. We're committed now to seeing all three (and any others that may come by) through the winter; no abandoning a bird feeder after it's too late for the birds to head south! At least having it off the balcony will make it easier to check on each morning: last year the feeder sometimes froze and we'd have the sad sight of a hummingbird buzzing around it, unable to break through to the nectar inside (usually a quick poke with a nail through the feeding tube wd do the trick). Though have to confess it still throws me to see hummingbirds in the air when there's snow on the ground . . .


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