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Hummingbird Hocus-Pocus
Virginia Lawrence | Caminito del Rocio

Friends and neighbors cooperating.
Photo Virginia Lawrence.
Click to enlarge.

Those dear little hummers, the tiniest bird in the world. They look so sweet. But it ain’t necessarily so! I have two hummingbird feeders on my balcony, each with 4 red plastic blossoms surrounding a miniscule feeding hole in the center. Plenty of room for everyone. But a couple of days ago a little tyrant took it into his head that he didn’t want to share either feeder with anyone. For four hours our little bully held off all hummer comers while he perched alone on one feeder or the other, eating only rarely, scanning the sky for visitors. As soon as any entered his field of vision, he chased them off. Many became so cowed by his presence that they would approach and, merely seeing him there, turn tail and dissappear. After 4 hours our greedy little guy gave up. It would be nice to think he felt repentent, but he was probably just bored.

There is hardly a moment from sun-up to sunset when there isn’t a single hummer on one feeder or the other. However, the traffic from 4pm on is intense. There can be close to a dozen checking things out at once, and I have seen up to eight sitting on a single feeder which offers only four blossoms to sip from. They are skittish, and are constantly flying off and whizzing around. But mostly they manage to share.

Yesterday I was startled to see a pair of finches take possession of one of the feeders. (A finch is to a hummingbird as a Ranger Rover is to a Mercedes Smart Car.) In this case the finches were 2/3 as tall the bottles. Finches are apparently not all that swift. They kept trying to stick their stubby beaks into the much too tiny blossoms. The hummingbirds zoomed around nearby, but all were shrewd enough to avoid challanging the finches, who gave up anyway after about five minutes.

More about hummingbirds:
excerpted from www,mentalfloss.com

“Studies have shown that hummingbirds can remember every flower they’ve ever visited, including on migration routes. They can [also recognize] humans, and know which ones can be counted on to refill empty feeders.

“Mating season can get a bit competitive for hummingbirds. ... Hummingbird males get mean. After a little bobbing and weaving, territorial males use their needle-like beaks [as] little shivs and stab each other in the throat. {Mating lasts a maximum of 4 seconds, and then the male - devoid of any paternal instinct - rushes off to his next conquest, leaving the female to build the nest and raise the young by herself.

“No other bird on Earth can stunt-fly like a hummingbird. They can fly forward or backward, hover, and even fly upside-down, and they do all of this so fast we can’t even see it—beating their wings between 70 and 200 times per second. This power, precision, and agility allows them to reach speeds of up to 30 miles per hour while flying and 60 miles per hour while diving. Their mad flight skills have made them a subject of great scientific fascination and several weird experiments.”


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