Sharing the Backyard with Those All Season Anna's Hummingbirds

Sharing the Backyard with Those All Season Anna's Hummingbirds

Sep 27, 2016, 2:19:34 AM Tech and Science

Anna's hummingbirds are perpetual presences at our place, rain or shine, and even during the coldest of winter cold snaps (late last year, temperatures dropped to -15°C and necessitated the retrieval of nectar feeders at night and the subsequent return of them to their usual places in the wee hours of the morning). The addition of a fifth nectar feeder this year has seen 3 "guardians" (front, side, and back of the house), and 3 "backups." Short tempers, even shorter stays, colourful avian ("fowl") language, and spectacular dogfights (or perhaps "birdfights" would be a more appropriate term) are the orders of the day.


male Anna's with his stunning pink balaclava on plum tree (taken on June 2). the adult males rarely pose for my lens, but often drink quickly and fly off. © W.H. Sim, All Rights Reserved.


The best way to describe these territorial tussles? When these two feathered combatants fight over food, they may tightly circle each other (which is actually quite artistic and entertaining to watch). They may even touch the ground during this conflict, but more often will clash bills and wings through bushes and trees. One may even dive bomb the other (like a courtship dive, but without the love). No one's lost an eye or even a feather, but these quarrels can get quite intense. Generally, though, they chase each other in straight and ascending lines out of the backyard. The victor returns in a few seconds, usually to his favorite perch.


juvenile male Anna's (current owner) with "peach fuzz" on flowering carrot (taken on July 12). this became his favorite summertime perch. © W.H. Sim, All Rights Reserved.


There are even 3-way battles, and two sets of 2-way battles which can happen at the same time, especially when fledglings have left their nests recently and are trying to establish their own territories. Sometimes, the conflicts will happen continuously (one battle will happen within 5-10 seconds of the conclusion of the previous battle). The combatants only take a break to recharge their batteries. Incidentally, spacing out the nectar feeders and planting flowers in different areas hasn't helped tone down the intensity of hummingbird conflicts in our area.


juvenile male and adult male Anna's (foreground) battling on butterfly bush (taken on June 14). disputes like these were very common at the beginning of summer! © W.H. Sim, All Rights Reserved.


Interestingly, it's more often the juvenile males who battle most frequently; the adult males prefer to keep out of these entanglements. It's as if age--not to mention a stunning headdress (which takes up to a year to develop)--grants wisdom (and a mellowness) to the more "seasoned" hummingbirds. The females, juvenile and adult, are less selfish and combative. It makes sense--since they will eventually become mothers-- they can't be as unsharing and selfish as the males!


juvenile female Anna's checking out the camellia -- just because it's red (taken on April 8). anything red, as a matter of fact, will get a cursory poke from these flying jewels. © W.H. Sim, All Rights Reserved.


Watching these flying jewels feed from flower or nectar feeder is always a wonderful experience. Occasionally, though, they do engage in behavior that completely mystifies me. I had one chirp at me this summer -- that's "chirp" like a songbird, and not the metallic squeaky noises they usually make. Even more mysteriously, we also had two juveniles dancing for a few minutes (!!) on the pear tree branches in late November 2015 -- watch the video below, and you'll see what I mean.


these fellas will definitely be at the next lek! Anna's Hummingbirds as "in sync" dancin' machines ... why else would they bop their heads? © W.H. Sim, All Rights Reserved.


Published by Hui Sim

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