Bird Watcher's General Store

Fighting Hummers - 08/30/02


Dear Bird Folks,

After trying all summer, I have finally attracted some hummingbirds to my feeder. However, I only have dull birds that look like females and all they do is fight each other. How can I stop the fighting and how can I get some pretty male hummingbirds to visit my feeders.

Molly, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY

Really, Molly,

Is there really a town called "Annandale-on-Hudson?" Really? That's not a town, it's a sentence. You should be glad Annandale isn't on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire. You'd have to buy extra long envelopes just to fit your return address.

As for your fighting hummers, don't worry about it, hummingbirds love to fight each other. That's what they live for. Hummingbirds are so small that almost every creature on the earth can beat them up. Fish, frogs, spiders, dragonflies and praying mantises have all made a meal out of hummingbirds. So in order to push something around, they pick on each other.

Most birds only defend a breeding territory, but hummingbirds are one of the few birds that will defend a food source. Mockingbirds also defend a feeding territory, but they defend it against almost all other birds and for an entire season. Almost anywhere a hummer finds food it is ready to fight to defend it, even on its migration stops to Central America. However, since it only weighs a zillionth of an ounce, the only thing it can attack without being laughed at is another hummingbird and the occasional lady bug.

What to do about the fighting birds at your feeder? You could try talking to them and perhaps suggest some anger management classes. Or you could put out another feeder or two. Hang your second feeder in another part of your yard, out of sight from your first feeder. That way one hummer can't control both feeders. Putting out two feeders not only controls some of the fighting, it also helps us sell more hummingbird feeders, and I like that.

You may only have females at your feeder, but you may also have some young males mixed in. They look very similar. The reason you don't have any adult males, is that most of the adult males have headed out already. Male hummingbirds aren't very good parents and as soon as the kids start yelling, they are out of here. The females stay a few weeks longer to raise the kids and to show them how to find food.

Good luck with your hummingbirds, Molly. Thanks for the question and I hope to see you the next time you visit Cape Cod-on-Atlantic.



Artwork by Catherine Clark


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