The Hummingbird Wars

Last fall  I glanced out my kitchen window and happened to see a hummingbird hovering just beyond the glass.  We stared at each other for a tiny moment before it zipped away.  I had no idea we got hummingbirds in this part of the country (southern Michigan), but I wanted to see more of them. In the spring, I bought three hummingbird feeders and hung them below the eaves of our house.

At first we had nothing. Then two hummingbirds appeared and used the feeders regularly.  I suspect they were a mated pair.  My seven-year-old especially loves catching sight of one sipping from the feeder, its wings a blur.

Of late, however, the local hummingbird population has suddenly increased.  I don’t know whether they’re babies from the original pair, or if the feeders have simply attracted more.  The new ones (there are at least three) are rather smaller, which makes me think they’re babies.  However, hummingbirds DO NOT SHARE.

Ohhhh, how they do not share.

They fight over the food.  One bird approaches a feeder, and another dive bombs him.  They swoop and stab at each other in two gray-green blurs, making little chittering noises.  They chase each other around the trees like tiny warplanes, and their wings thrum with a deep-throated sound, rather like a quiet full-sized airplane or helicopter.  Vicious nectar-suckers, all of them.

When they aren’t fighting, they’re eating.  They drain the feeders like crazy.  Early on, I filled each feeder halfway once a week, and that was plenty.   Now I fill them to the brim, and all three are empty by end of the week.  (Good thing sugar water is cheap to make!)  When the feeders run dry, the birds hover outside our windows and glare inside.  My wife says she half expects to hear rapid-fire drumming on the front door, followed by a squeaky, “Hey!  Where’s the friggin’ FOOD?”  We’re held hostage by the hummingbird mafia.

One of the more vicious birds is very shy with people.  He has a gray-black coat and a ruby throat.  He prefers the kitchen window feeder, and drinks several times an hour.  But if he spies a human watching him through the glass, he leaves the feeder perch and goes into hover mode.  If the human doesn’t move, he’ll sip while hovering.  If the human moves, he zips away to the safety of the maple tree in the back yard.  But let his brother approach (I think it’s his brother–they look alike), he turns into a chittering hover bomb and attacks with all the anger of hornet.

Maybe the Air Force should look into using hummingbirds.

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