I have questions

Kristy AsaoJuly 26, 2014

Good weekend to ya guys!

Now that I have regular humming birds, how do they determine who can and how can't be around? Who's allowed in a territory? Who aren't? Thank you!

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gyr_falcon(Sunset 23 USDA 9)

The answer is very, very complex. It depends upon which species of hummingbirds are residents, seasonal visitors or migratory through your area; the size and aggressiveness of the various species and individual birds as well as the number of birds in close proximity. The time of year comes into play, with females of the same species often being allowed to feed in a male's claimed territory during the breeding season, but not necessarily welcomed at other times. Females may share feeding territories with their fledged young, but chase away other birds.

Individuals defend what they can get away with--and that can change frequently with new choice plants coming into bloom and shifting territories, one or more new hummingbird arrivals, or departures, or even the time of day (cooperative feeder feeding during the final evening tank-up is often seen).

The pecking orders usually get determined fairly quickly, from what I have seen. But the degree of difference plays a part in behavior. Big spread, and the underdog will likely give way at the first hint of being spotted poaching nectar. More closely matched, and which bird flinches first determines who flees, and for how far. This year for several months, two unusually evenly matched males resided in my back yard. One would frequently fly right up to the other and display, and if neither one flinched, retreat to a nearby perch, where they would just glaring at each other. But if one was not alert while feeding, the other might swoop in with such force, you could hear their bodies smack. With increased hummer density, it can get interesting--it isn't unusual for me to see three birds in chase mode flying together. I have no idea who is chasing whom then!

Some birds develop stealth tactics to feed. While the dominate bird is busy chasing off an intruder, the stealthy one sneaks in and quietly feeds. Stealth birds will often feed together while poaching. One particularly good stealth bird in my garden was a master at welcoming a more visible scapegoat to feed nearby---all the better to draw the returning dominate's ire, so he could feed for an even longer length of time!

Feeders tend to be dominated by individual birds until, or if, a tipping number of hummers arrive at the site. At that point, there really is no benefit to chase off one bird, when four others will use the feeder while you are giving chase. They will still squabble, but the flight distance will be greatly reduced. In mega numbers, such as 100+ hummers around 4-5 closely-placed feeders, chase distance may become no more than 12".

    Bookmark   July 27, 2014 at 2:22AM
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Kristy Asao

Thanks so very much Gyr! ^__^ I do know (and have seen) the 1 humming bird species I know by name, Ruby-throated humming birds. I saved your really, really long post to me.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2014 at 11:57PM
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Kristy Asao

Gyr, will all the humming birds migrate? Will all of mine, in my area, migrate? Thank you!

    Bookmark   July 29, 2014 at 12:43PM
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gyr_falcon(Sunset 23 USDA 9)

I'm unsure where your area is exactly, but ruby-throated hummingbirds tend to all migrate for the winter. In some portions of Florida and coastal Louisiana there have been reports of a limited number of overwintering Rubys.

Occasionally a western migrant, usually an Anna's, will be found at an eastern feeder and it may try to stick around for the winter. Although it has been happening more frequently in recent years, it remains a rare occurrence. The west has more resident hummingbird species; Allens and Anna's are the two where I live in southern California.

This post was edited by Gyr_Falcon on Tue, Jul 29, 14 at 14:37

    Bookmark   July 29, 2014 at 2:36PM
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Kristy Asao

My bad. I should've said. Southern California, LA area. Right up against the San Gabriel mountains here.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2014 at 3:07PM
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gyr_falcon(Sunset 23 USDA 9)

Oh! That changes the species, Protego. Ruby-throated hummingbirds are only found in the eastern half of the continental US. (Visual id without knowing the range limitations can make that misidentification understandable, especially with juveniles and females). Several species are year round residents in CA (Anna's, Allen's and Costas). But in some areas, especially in the mountains or colder climates, some to most of the resident birds may move around to nearby regions at certain times of the year. You may experience some fluctuation in numbers, but I would not be surprised if you see hummingbirds during the winter months where you live. There are other species that migrate through CA. To save my fingers from having to type another long post ;-) I provided a link to an LA Times article that lists them and a rough as to their range.

Here is a link that might be useful: LA Times Hummingbird Article

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 12:22AM
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ctnchpr

Protego, if you live in the LA area, you don't have Ruby-throated hummers. They spend their Summers in the Eastern half of the US. G Falcon can probably tell you what you do have.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 12:22AM
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Kristy Asao

My bad. Silly me. Lol I can't say and repeat this enough Gyr, thank you! ^__^ Is there anything else I can provide/help the 3 local humming bird species out with? Thank you! I have no idea how likely they are to build like a nest near a house. And I don't have trees in my small back yard currently.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 12:35AM
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