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Nature Notes - the Hummingbird Feeder War

Updated on July 31, 2016

There's a Fierce War Going On...

My hubby and I have been avid birdwatchers for decades. We keep the binoculars close by and are always on the lookout for a new visitor to our bird-friendly yard which includes every kind of tree, shrub or plant that is attractive to birds, butterflies, moths, bees and even wasps. We believe all things in nature work together. Our little copy of Peterson's Guide to Birds is falling apart from use. It has a life-list inside the back cover where we list the date of each visit. This year we spied a towhee, and we looked up the late date we had seen one which was in 1984. Each spring we put out the hummingbird feeders because hummers are the most fun to watch. It is amazing that they seem to arrive at almost the same day every spring. But hummers are very competitive and fiercely guard what they must believe is "their" personal feeder. Around and around they go all summer long...

There's a fierce war going on, but it's not the one you think. This is the War of the Hummingbirds, an unrelenting battle between four ruby throat hummingbirds who have fought each other at our hummingbird feeder from dawn to dusk since spring.

We think it is two mated pairs. But the males are so greedy they often will not allow the females to drink from two red plastic hummingbird feeders filled with our own homemade hummingbird feeder recipe made from half filtered water and, for the first feeding use half sugar/water because they have been on a long journey north. The next time we fill the feeder it will be with one-quarter sugar to a full bottle. The red plastic hummingbird feeder is the best one for attracting the little guys. We have been feeding hummingbirds this sugar-laden recipe for several years and they can't get enough.

We observe the war within the confines of our screen porch. One hummingbird feeder hangs just on the other side of the screen. The other, in a white pine, a few yards to the south.

Hummingbirds at War

A Long, Fierce Battle Continues

The war is in it's second year. The battlefield is the air space anywhere in the vicinity of the feeders. One male, flashing his ruby throat, holds vigil in the dogwood, about midway up. He's waiting, turning his head from side to side, watching for the invaders. He warbles to himself. A warrior.

As soon as one of the other three hummers approach the porch feeder, he dives towards them, sometimes actually connecting. They climb skyward in fierce battle, circle the house and return to their stations in the nearby dogwood trees.

Today, September 21st, one lonely female hummingbird continues to visit the porch feeder. Perching in the nearby dogwood where the male usually stood watch, she preens, emitting chirps as she goes about the task.

We're wondering whether her mate was a casualty of the war, or could it be, she won?

We'll know next spring.

Stay tuned.


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    • Lilleyth profile image

      Suzanne Sheffield 3 years ago from Mid-Atlantic

      Thank you Ruby, I appreciate the thumbs up and share!

    • Ruby H Rose profile image

      Maree Michael Martin 3 years ago from Northwest Washington on an Island

      Hummingbirds bring so much joy with their buzzing in my ear and their beautiful colors reflecting off the sunlight. Truly a joy to watch them playing and dancing around the sweet nectar. Sword fights and all, hum, interesting all the different ways they attract our attention. Thumbs up and shared, great video too.

    • Lilleyth profile image

      Suzanne Sheffield 5 years ago from Mid-Atlantic

      My husband and I are entertained all spring and summer by their antics! Thanks for the thumbs up!

    • grandmapearl profile image

      Connie Smith 5 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      I love to watch my hummers. The male sits on a dead oak branch not very far from the feeder and waits for his next victim. It doesn't take long before a female dares to make an attempt at feeding. He bangs into her from above and she speeds off--for awhile. I have also seen two males use their beaks as 'swords' as they fly straight upwards! Hummers are truly amazing, feisty creatures. Voted Up and interesting.