Country Living Series

Friday, August 23, 2013

Battling hummingbirds

On August 5, I belatedly hung up the hummingbird feeder after noticing a couple of hummers hovering on our front porch in a very pointed way. Considering I haven't hung the feeder since summer before last, I can only assume these birds either had a very good memory, or it was pure chance that they lingered in front of the window, looking at me crossly.

So I mixed up sugar water (4:1 ratio) and hung the feeder. It took, oh, about fifteen minutes for the first hummer to discover it.

There's just something so endlessly fascinating about these tiny packages of metabolism and mobility.

See her little tongue sticking out?

It didn't take long for more hummingbirds to find the feeder, and then the battle was on.

It got to where there were so many birds that I was refilling the feeder every day. At one point I counted nine hummers arguing over the artificial flowers.

You know how it is with hummers. They let you get right up to them.

And then about a week ago, kaboom. Nothing. No more hummers. The feeder hung there, full of sugar water, deserted.

In this part of the country, it's advised that people not feed hummers past late summer because it will encourage them to put off their migration to warmer climates. But is their departure so sudden and abrupt? Possibly.

At any rate, I guess I'll take the feeder down now. Nothing more to see.


  1. What beautiful pictures! We quit feeding the hummingbirds sugar water a few years ago because it was taking so much sugar. Now we have them feeding on the zinnias and other flowers we grow each year. We don't get to watch them up close anymore, but we still have them around. Thanks for the pictures.


  2. 1.] get a second feeder.
    2.] there is a bird columnist from W.Va. who says you are not stopping migration by feeding later in the year. he says those birds who stay are the lame, halt and infirm who are not able to make the migration, although some may be recovering from something unknown and may be able to migrate when their strength is built up.
    deb harvey

  3. Hummingbirds, I've learned over the years, are incredibly intelligent.

    Here in California, we have our feeder out year round. My wife is the one who fills up the feeder every couple of days and when it's empty, the hummingbirds will actually go around the house to the windows, find my wife and let her know they need to be refilled. She's the only one they do this to and when she walks outside, if the feeder is empty, they'll get inches from her face and chirp as if to say, "refill please!"

    Beautiful and stunning creatures they are! We have one I call red (due to his/her red belly) and he/she is a bully. She'll chase off any other hummingbirds that get close while feeding.

  4. I live in southern Idaho and a lot of the hummingbirds have been migrating south since late July, many stop at my place at the feeder before heading on their way. Not many here anymore either, just one or two every day, always different ones. I think it will be an early winter this year, I live on a waterfowl migration flyway and we've had huge flocks of geese in the hundreds head south since early August, way earlier than normal. A lot of the northern songbirds have been migrating through headed south too. Crazy weather this year.

  5. I am amazed you got such good pictures of them. I never see one around here stay still long enough to get a descent picture and I have tried many times. We usually have four feeders out and after the little ones are flying we will have hummingbirds beyond counting until about late September.

    This time of year I have to be very careful in the garden as everything has grown to the point that it creates hummingbird highways and tunnels. I get hit by at least one bird every time I am in the garden.

  6. Love the pics. Need to refill my feeder.


  7. My father put up several feeders every year in the Spokane Valley, and just loved to sit and watch them. He always had gazillions of birds there every year. He'd buy the sugar in the summer in the large sacks, just to make sugar water for "his" birds.

    Here in my place, I have never seen any hummingbirds, so I never bothered to put up any feeders. But I saw a hummingbird, while out working in the garden, a short time ago. So, since I have Dad's feeders now, I guess I better start putting them up next year, and see if a flock finds my place. Not a lot of flowers around here (can't afford to allot water to them, when it is hard to get enough for the vegetable garden!), and if they are starting to come here, I don't want the poor little guys to starve!

  8. I was up in Silver City, Idaho (ghost town in southern Idaho, where individuals own the different buildings in town and many stay up there during the summer months), and the hummingbirds there were insane, most buildings had up at least 2-6 feeders and every feeder constantly had several birds on it, it was entertaining watching the birds fight and chase each other off. I have never seen such a huge quantity of hummingbirds in one area before that, it was crazy, but very neat to see so many various types of hummers in one area.

  9. It took me a few years to finally realize we have a year round population here in addition to out migrating birds.

    We keep two feeders out from April until the first freeze, then we switch to one, which we rotate to keep the liquid from freezing. I've made a little "patio cover" for the feeder that keeps the rain out and gives them a little protection while they eat.

    I'm so happy that they stay.

    A. McSp

    There's nothing more inspiring than seeing a hummingbird flying through the snow!

    1. I also have a small winter population of 2-4 birds. I have pictures of them sitting in the blueberry bushes outside the window surrounded by snow. Very cool. (Sorry) I really enjoy watching the young ones when they show up. Little pinfeathers sticking out here and there. Flying skills real mushy compared to the precision of the adults. Lots of over corrections like a brand new driver on a curvy road.

  10. Here in central Oklahoma they arrive every spring about April 15 and depart September 15. It's amazing how closely they stick to that schedule. We always have one or two hangers-on, and we've figured those are the ones who can't make the trip south.
    My wife always puts a drop or two of orange extract in our food. We too have a bully hummer- a ruby throat. Others feed peacefully with each other, but not him! He has to run everyone else off. Reminds me of the schoolyard bully.
    Jeff in OK

  11. My grandparents in Wisconsin had several hummingbird feeders, they had birds numbering in the hundreds some years. I could sit fascinated and watch them for hours. I especially enjoyed when grandpa would refill the feeders, the little guys would land on his hat and shoulders waiting for him to get them filled. What great youthful times, thanks for those pictures Patrice, and the refreshed memories they brought...

  12. A couple of years ago during a very hot summer, I used to have a hummingbird visit me regularly in my garage. He'd just fly right up to me and hover a few moments as if to say hello and then fly away only to return the next day. It seemed odd to see the same bird come inside the garage every day and look me in the eye...I never had any food for him though there was an abundance of trees and flowers around.
    Even more strange was the tough time I was going through while all this happened. The garage was the place I went to think and pray. I began to look forward to the seeing this bird and felt comforted when he came.
    Immediately after the issues were resolved, the hummingbird stopped his visits.

    My kids and I enjoy your pictures very much Patrice, thanks so much for posting them. My little girl calls hummingbirds "honeybirds". I don't have the heart to correct her yet. :)
    J. in Utah

  13. I've truly enjoyed reading all these wonderful comments about hummers!

    Has anyone ever seen a baby hummer? If so, what do they look like?

    I have several very unusual looking flying mini-beasts here that could be babies??

    At 2 inches long, they're noticeably larger than a cicada but smaller than an adult hummer. They have vibrating wings, a long snout and a pointed tail just like a hummer but none of the bright coloring. I've never seen multiple legs on them like on an insect.

    They look decidedly alien!

    I see them collecting nectar from the flowers but not the feeders and they don't seem to be frightened of me. I once spent 5 full minutes watching one just a couple feet away.

    Are these the babies??

    Just Me

    1. Depends on the variety of hummers you have there, but look up the Hummingbird Moth too, and see if thats what you're seeing.

    2. Oh my heavens! I did look it up and that IS what I've been seeing! Thanks so much.

      I've never heard of the Hummingbird Moth.

      The first time I saw one was one day upon leaving the house. No sooner had I closed the door behind me when I came eye to eye with one hovering only 10 inches from my face.

      I shrieked...the moth "shrieked"...and we both turned tail and fled at the same time.

      Just Me

  14. Hummer wars are in full force here in North Florida.I have 4 feeders out and each has an overlord who chases an intruder off while another swoops in to get a meal. We have mostly Ruby throated Hummers here, when a male flashes his ruby feathers it is an awesome display. Once they get energy reserves they will migrate over the gulf sometime in the first week of September,although in the southern portion of the state some stay year round and the older birds make a short trip there. We also get plenty of migrant birds who come in for a day to top off the tank and go on. I appreciate the photos it is always interesting as these tiny power houses never fail to amaze!

    had enuff

  15. I bought one this year and still haven't gotten it up. I guess I am going to have to wait until next year. Such stunning little creatures and great photos!

  16. I live in Central California is the Sierra Nevada mountains very near the Rim Fire. The past few days the hummers and birds in general have dropped off considerably, and I don't know if that's due to migration or to the intense smoke from the fire. It's a bit early for migration.

  17. I live in Central California is the Sierra Nevada mountains very near the Rim Fire. The past few days the hummers and birds in general have dropped off considerably, and I don't know if that's due to migration or to the intense smoke from the fire. It's a bit early for migration.