Hummingbirds, raptors, and the like

While I was washing up the morning dishes today, Ben came through the back door and said, “Now you’ve done it. A second hummer is back and the back deck wars have begun.”

Ombudsben (a different Ben) asked about our hummingbirds. We have two types that I can identify, a fairly small bird with a green back and wings (calliope) and a reddish, slightly larger, agressive bird (rufous). They are all somewhat territorial and war constantly over who really owns the feeder. The rufous are the most territorial. They sit or hover nearby yelling “eeeeee, chittity, chitty, chit” at any bird that somes near.

Two rufous females in a standoff are an astounding site. They fly straight at each other at about 45 mph until they are beak to beak with eyes locked on each other. Then they fly straight up, beak to beak. I once saw them go higher than our second-story roof. Whoever backs off loses.

Several years ago, we had between 15 and 20 birds around the deck at any given time. They were females. I don’t know if you know this, but most of the time male and female hummingbirds live separately. They get together only for the necessary contact to proliferate the species. (I know some men and women who would think this the ideal arrangement.)

At any rate, we had so many birds that I decided one 6-blossom feeder wasn’t enough. So I hung another at the far side of the little area where we sit. What a mistake that was! We couldn’t sit out there most of the time. The air above our table was proportionately more crowded than LAX, with birds whizzing around and dive-bombing each other and yelling at the top of their little bird lungs.

If only they would share quietly. But they don’t. The interesting (to me) exception to this all-out battle is right after fledging time when the new little birds are learning to fly. Then the females seem willing to share, not just with the young birds but with each other as well, to make sure that everyone gets fed. When the young ones are a little bigger, the warring starts all over again.

We have a new raptor. Ben says he thinks it’s a merlin. I finally saw it today, and I’m inclined to agree. We’ve never seen falcons out here, but this bird looks, hunts, flies, and acts like a merlin. And there are suddenly an awful lot of little piles of bird feathers around the place. I just hope he likes wild pigeon. I’d like to get some plums this year to make plum-ginger jam/glaze.

And speaking of Ombudsben (which I was earlier), you’ll find him added to my blogroll listing. If nothing else, you should go check out what he says about himself. It’s reminiscent of Martin Luther’s “95 Theses.” I really enjoyed it. One of these days I’ll try to emulate it, but in the meantime you’ll just have to glean whatever crumbs you can get here.


7 Responses to “Hummingbirds, raptors, and the like”

  1. Kate Evans Says:

    Hi Marianne-

    I really like your writing and am wondering if you might want to consider submitting something to our new online publicaiton. Many of your blog entries that stand alone might be of interest to us. Please email me if you’re interested.


  2. Kate Evans Says:

    PS: email me at: kattacruz at sbcglobal dot net

  3. OmbudsBen Says:

    What a wonderful description of your hummers, Marianne! I’m envious, I’d love to watch so many — although it sounds like we’d rather have the feeders a good distance off of our back deck!

    And I know what you mean about how aggressive the little guys are. I’ve been buzzed more than once, and they used to take particular exception to our poor old cat, Millicent. She reached the age of 20, had a quiet, slow-moving dignity as she stepped tentatively around our deck and garden, and really deserved more deference.

    Thanks, too, for the call-out, I’ll add you to my roll.

  4. mklekacz Says:

    Ombudsben, in my experience, hummingbirds defer to on one or no thing.

    My favorite story is from the hummingbird wars of 2003 or so, when the 15 birds were duking it out over two feeders. I was trying to sit on the back deck. A hummingbird headed for the far feeder came by my face, missing my aristocratic nose by maybe a quarter of an inch. I must have started a little, because the bird stopped in mid-air about 6-8 inches from my face, turned toward me as if to say “I’m sorry,” then darted off.

  5. ombudsben Says:

    I wish we had a picture of that. Just to see how wide open your eyes can get. 😉

  6. whitishrabbit Says:

    I have nothing of value to add, except, good morning!

    Hummingbirds are cool.

  7. mklekacz Says:

    Ombudsben, it was a VERY surprising thing.

    Rabbit, good morning back to ya, although it’s now near evening. Hope your weekend of hooky was great.

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