Hummingbirds can be so very peaceful and beautiful, sipping sweetly at nectar, gently hovering near flowers, curiously glancing to and fro, and swiftly flying in graceful lines across the yard. If you watch the hummingbirds at my feeders for more than a minute or two, however, you'll learn just how deceptive all those behaviors can be. It's hummingbird war season.
Drinks are swiftly gulped either before another hummingbird chases the first away from the feeder, or to refuel after bullying every other hummingbird away. Hovering is a means of staking territory and denying other visitors access to those flowers. Curious glances are really suspicious glares, watching every inch of the yard looking for intruders. Swift flight, more often than not, is chasing away another bird that got just a feather too close.
I've been closely buzzed more than once even as I refill feeders or enjoy my deck, but I'm happy to have a sideline view of these battles. While I may need to take steps to curb hummingbird aggression so more birds can feed, it's still amazing behavior to observe. For now, the battle lines are drawn between the black-chinned hummingbirds and the rufous hummingbirds, with the rufous far more often on the attack. All too soon, both species will continue their migration and my deck will seem far more lonely in peacetime, but I'm already planning tactics for next year's wars - more flowers, more feeders, and more fun to observe.