The human world subscribes to the adage “if you build it they will come”, but the Hummer world subscribes to “if you leave it undefended they will come” – and by ‘they’, we’re talking other hummingbirds (not the military vehicle which adopts the same attitude).
We rural dwellers who mistakenly believe we are ‘owners’ of property know, all too well, about Hummingbird Wars. They occur right here, outside our very windows and on our very turf – literally under our noses - and involve swordfights, high-speed chases, and standoffs: all the elements of war conducted right outside the kitchen window.
The opening shot is subtle … and nearly invisible, to those not in the ‘know’. A barrage of ‘chittering’ conducted from a local tree (conveniently located only a few feet away from the coveted flower or feeder) alerts invading perps that THIS territory HAS been claimed.
Ignore this chittering warning and the second round of defense is revealed: a high-speed humming rush at the invader. It’s akin to a bullet speeding by: you can feel the brush of death on your cheek, but ya never saw it coming!
One of two events then transpires: either the perp flees, closely followed by a B-52 bomber hot on his tail; or a swordfight ensues.
You simply haven’t lived until you’ve seen two Hummers going at it beak to beak.
“En guarde, interloper!”
Our Hummers display yet another talent: the ability to not only recognize humans as the source of that red sugary syrup in the hanging feeder; but the ability to GO AND GET ‘EM when said feeders are wantonly allowed to get too low.
My friend didn’t believe this (indeed, there IS such a sin as anthropomorphism: “…the attribution of human characteristics to other animals, non-living things, phenomenon….”), but we definitely weren’t guilty in this case, as she experienced when a fading feeder prompted a small hoover in front of our living room window and a quick beak tap on the glass, followed by a short flight to point out the feeder in question to the obviously brain-dead TV-watchers behind the window. Clearly, we were once again lacking in Hummer services – and the front lines were letting us know before an army of indignant swordfighters descended!
The Peanut Gallery scoffed at my observations – until a swordfight took place quite literally under his nose. I gather the Hummers considered TPG large enough to hide behind (and fly around) in the midst of quite a jolly battle.
And his morning newspaper was quite neatly interrupted by repeated tapping on the front window next to his chair and the spectre of an Unhappy Hummer flying back and forth from window to empty feeder. The message was clear: “Look, you lazy oaf – birds are STARVING while you browse the morning news!”
A further point about emptiness was made when Harry Hummer landed on the feeder, looked sadly at less than inch of red fluid left, and blew a few tiny bubbles into the jar to demonstrate the lack of volume within.
I can’t think of ANY other small bird or beast which is as entertaining!
Our friend Elfie from Germany took the cake in Hummingbird observation, though. Apparently they don’t have hummers in her area of Germany (…not the bird, anyways…)
On a camping trip with her husband she bravely climbed the hill alone to the woman’s bathrooms, only to come flying down, screaming, a short time later: “You have the BIGGEST MOSQUITOES in your country!”
You got it.
Little did she know, OUR ‘big mosquitoes’ fence in their spare time, and tap their humans for free refills!