hummingbirds do not like to share

One of the things I love most about summer is hummingbirds. I love seeing them feeding on the flowers in my garden, love hearing them twitter overhead as I'm working out there. I love their curiosity and their fearlessness.

What I don't really like is their manners. They just don't like to share.


I've seen videos of hummingbird feeders with dozens of birds around it, all waiting for their turn at the fountain. I just don't understand how that happens -- maybe those feeders are spiked with vodka or whatever the hummingbird's adult beverage of choice is.

The hummers in my garden won't share at all. They won't even tolerate another of their kind anywhere near them. The feeders are a constant battleground.

As I watered a few potted plants at lunch today I saw and heard the excitement, so watched for a few minutes. Then I realized that my phone was in my pocket and I could take some video. For the next 15 minutes or so I watched the youngsters battle for position on the feeder. Thankfully it was cooler today with a bit of a cloud cover so I could watch in relative comfort.

Each movie gets a little closer to the action. Once I realized that they were too involved with each other to really care about me, I moved right in, almost touching the feeder with the camera. I wish the sound would have been louder, so you may want to crank up the volume to get the full effect.

I always wondered why the bird that was already drinking didn't just ignore the "attacking" bird. Today I learned the answer: those wings will give a pretty wicked sounding slap! Plus those beaks are quite pointy, and could really cause some injury I bet.

After I got all of the video I wanted, I started snapping some photos. Even with the annoying shutter lag I was able to capture some nice shots.

The scene depicted in these photos and videos probably went on for a while after I went back inside. Even though there is an identical feeder hanging on the deck next to the house, this must be a better location. Nobody was fighting over the other feeder.

I may need to hang a third out here in the yard to see if that reduces the tension.

I'm definitely coming back out here tomorrow at lunch, and will be bringing my good camera. I can't resist the hummingbirds!

(Note: all of the photos and videos were taken with my iPhone 4. The photos were cropped and tweaked a bit, but the videos are straight out of camera.)


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Jennifer  – (August 5, 2011 at 8:55 AM)  

I love photo #2 after the videos. Wow! That could win a contest!

I used to work in a garden center and we would leave the automatic doors open in the summer. One day a hummer flew in and couldn't figure out how to get out. It was fun to watch him zoom around the garden center, but after a day or two he started slowing down. There was no way to catch him. On the 2nd day a kid told me there was a bird lying at the door. It was the hummer - still alive. He was so close to freedom but was plum out of energy. I picked him (PICKED HIM UP!!!) and carried him to some yummy flowers. After a few hours he flew away. I felt all warm and fuzzy inside that I saved the little guy.

anne  – (August 5, 2011 at 9:24 AM)  

We have a family of red-throated hummingbirds that comes to our feeder and I read that they are extremely territorial. (I haven't seen an attack yet!) I never get tired of watching them several times a day. Great videos & photos!

Cat  – (August 5, 2011 at 11:12 AM)  

Man that iphone 4 takes great pictures! I love watching the hummers at the feeders; they're entertaining!

Ginny  – (August 5, 2011 at 11:22 AM)  

Those are fantastic shots! The hummers at my feeder don't like to share, either.

HolleyGarden  – (August 5, 2011 at 1:08 PM)  

Good photos! I try to place feeders around so they don't fight so much, too. One almost flew into my head running off his competitor! I would have looked funny with a hummingbird sticking out of my head! Thankfully, he turned at the last second. They really mean business!

Christine  – (August 5, 2011 at 2:14 PM)  

Great photographs! Can't believe those come off a phone!

PS: Happy for you that the rain has finally come!

JiffyJ  – (August 6, 2011 at 1:28 PM)  

If they are anything like the hummers I have here, then bird #1 has claimed that territory (both feeders) as his. He will only share with his mates. If he mates with a dozen females, he will allow them all to feed there. Maybe a nearby feeder has emptied, and bird #2 is looking to expand.
My patio is the claimed territory of a female, who has built a nest she returns to every year. She always has two sets of twins in the summer. The fight outside my living room window is between females, usually her own babies trying to get their own bit of space.
A feeder would be nice, but if I put one up, a male will claim the area, and we would miss watching all the babies growing up and learning to fly.

JiffyJ  – (August 6, 2011 at 1:37 PM)  

It is also worth mentioning that if I get to close to babies, Mama Bird has no problem attacking my face. I've learned my lesson. They are fearless, relentless little creatures.

Anne McCormack  – (August 9, 2011 at 5:51 PM)  

At least your last photo captures an idyllic moment of sharing--brief as it is! The video are very fun to watch. The video and our own observations notwithstanding, the experts say that when both the number of birds and feeders is high, they give up defending territory and just take what they can get.

Lyn  – (November 2, 2011 at 6:11 PM)  

Hi, just found your very interesting blog.I love the sound you captured on the close-up video - like an outboard motor! There are no hummingbirds here, so it seems really exotic to me to have them actually in the garden. Thanks for the treat!

Casa Mariposa  – (November 10, 2011 at 7:15 PM)  

My hummers act the same way. I've actually seen them flight straight up like a helicopter and practically swordfight with their beaks. So bizarre!! They're constantly chasing each other in and out of my rose of sharon, phlox, monarda, and trumpet vine.

Annie  – (June 1, 2014 at 9:41 AM)  

I've noticed this same thing a few years ago. The hummingbirds will sit on the power line near the house and if one even tries to get at the feeder, he is sent packing. They dive bomb each other, etc. And I too, have seen photos of multiple birds at the feeders. Perhaps they are in mid-migration and too hungry to argue! I put another feeder on the other side of the house and they seem to be using both, so hopefully everyone is getting their fair share. I also have hanging, flowering plants for them.

Anonymous –   – (September 13, 2014 at 1:21 PM)  

Very nice pictures. I didn't have time to look at the videos. What I discovered a long time ago is that the shutter speed of a camera or video cam set to the highest setting, say 500th or even 1000th of second gives a frozen shot of the bird in the air with the wings not a blur but quite visible and in focus. Does has to be done in good light as that's a very quick shutter speed.

I had a hummingbird feeder outside the window and left the video camera running while the TV was on. Cartoons were on and Tweety bird said "I thought I saw a puddy tat" at which moment the one hummer in the shot off. Quite funny and perfect timing.

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