Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Hummingbird Wars

Now that we've installed a hummingbird feeder near our living room window, I've been able to find out a lot of interesting things about these birds. Like how vicious they are. And how smart.

First off, hummingbirds are pretty territorial. Once a hummingbird establishes a feeding ground, it's death to any and all who enter. Usually, one bird will just chase off another, but every once in awhile, it's a vicious duel. I saw a bird get slammed against our window. I felt like we were in the middle of the desert, watching a turf war for water. The sad thing is, the birds end up fighting more than they drink.

Around our little feeder, the dominant bird is a little red-throated fella I've named Ollie. Around three to four inches long, he's about the size of Nigel (who I've written about before), but totally different in character: nervous, anxious, a tad bit psycho. Ollie has an ex — her name is Matilda, an elegant ladylike thing. One day, Ollie was having a drink at the feeder when Matilda shows up. He gives her this look: "Of all the hummingbird feeders in this 'hood, you have to show up at mine." Our other regulars are Tiny and the Masked Marauder, so named because of his iridescent head and his bolshie attitude.

One morning, the funniest thing happened. I was exercising in front of the window that overlooks the feeder, doing that Jane Fonda thing where you extend your arms and move them in circles. Ollie comes by for a hit of juice and takes one look at me and shrieks, "Bloody hell! A giant bird's taken over!" I must have looked like a massive pre-historic hummingbird! He was so freaked out, doing quick flybys to see what the Big Bird was up to, sweatin' his little wings off. We have one of those hummingbird feeders that have detachable plastic flowers that go around the little tube that the birds are suppose to feed from. Ours has four flowers, two of which we can see from our living room window, and two that are hidden from view. Well, ever since I scared Ollie with the Big Bird imitation, he's been feeding from the most hidden flower in hopes that we can't see him (he's really scared of me).

Now the person who takes charge of the feeder is GD — he cleans and refuels the thing every few days. One day, as an experiment, GD took the plastic flower off the far tube in hopes that Ollie would use one of the other flowers so he wouldn't be so hidden away. So, along comes Ollie ... he goes to his favorite "flower" ... he sees that the flower is missing! In shock, he flaps his wings around ... and then, in total fury, he throws himself against the window, looks right at GD, and screams "*@#!!@#*$#@!(@#$" before flying away. He actually knew it was GD who'd taken the flower! Can you believe it! He was so furious with GD — even I've never been that mad at him! Thank god for the window or else Ollie would have thrown a punch (or whatever the equivalent bird thing is).

I made GD put the flower back, but Ollie hasn't forgiven us. I haven't seen him in a couple of days. I think the Masked Marauder has taken over the feeder. Which is fine with me because Ollie was a little too psycho for my tastes.


Jacqueline Simonds said...

Loved your story! What a giggle!

When I was young, we lived in Colorado - up in the moutains. Our hummer feeder - at the front of the house - was very well visited by at least 6 Rufus hummers (gorgeous, colorful and big), requiring replenishment almost every day. Once, my dad forgot to fill it. The biggest bird, flew all the way around the house and INTO THE KITCHEN. There it hovered in front of my Dad giving him a scolding in quite uncertain terms. My Dad whispered, "I'm terribly sorry, little man. I'll have that out in a minute." The hummer hovered for a few more seconds, making sure the message was received, then flew back out. Dad refilled the feeder with 3 angry hummers watching.

Don't tell me they can't think!

J.A. Pak said...

Thank you! It's so true about how intelligent they are — they really know what's going on and who you are. A friend of mine didn't refill her feeder for a couple of weeks — one day, as they were eating, an angry hummingbird started knocking on the window, telling them in no uncertain terms to get their act together! And I'm always astonished at how each bird has its own unique personality