Sunday, June 05, 2005

Hummingbirds, again

The hummingbird feeders — we added a window feeder to the original hanging feeder — have been one of our best-value entertainment buys. Hummingbirds are wonderful little things: full of energy and character. The Chihuahuas of the bird world. And they’ve become pretty fearless about approaching the feeders: they’ll happily feed while we’re watching them through the screen door, and even when we’re sitting out near the feeders.

In the last few days we’ve seen some new behaviour: a young Anna’s comes to the feeder and perches for five or ten minutes — an eternity in the hummingbird world — beak in the air, chest heaving, tongue flicking in and out. I jokingly named it “panting”, thinking I was surely anthropomorphising. But a quick Google suggests I’m right: birds do pant to cool down.

And today, some very aggressively territorial behaviour. An adult Anna’s male perching in the tree opposite seems to have claimed our balcony as part of his territory, chasing off any other birds who try to approach the feeders, and making possessive displays around the feeders. Hummingbird territorial confrontations are quick but dramatic: the defending bird zooms over from his perch, his red gorget flashing in the sunlight, twitters angrily at the interloper, and chases it off at high speed.

All very dramatic, but I’m not sure us being annexed into his territory is altogether a good thing: we get to see more confrontations, but fewer close-up views of hummingbirds feeding.

[Update: he’s here for good, it would seem. We’ve nicknamed him the Mob Boss.]