Fencing Hummingbirds

Fencing Hummingbirds

If you’ve never seen fencing hummingbirds you’re missing out!

It’s that time of year… at least for the Anna’s hummingbird. Nests and babies have been spotted in previous years in late February.

So the other day, I hung out fluff and wool and bits of string for the birds to use in their nests. I’m usually always too late so I figured if I got the stuff out early someone just might get to use it.

Now, I haven’t noticed any birds utilizing my offerings yet, but there is great activity happening around the hummingbird cooler.

As I filled the feeders today I could hear the hummers buzzing around in the treetops making their distinctive noise.

Once heard, never forgotten.

So even though it was raining, I snuggled down into my jacket and took a seat on the deck where I could watch the action.

Anna's hummingbird with flare

As you can see from the picture above, the image isn’t tacked sharp, which is because the light was really low and I was hand holding the camera.

Nonetheless, the deck is a great place to observe all the birds in my yard.

Once I sorted out all the noise and flyby’s there appeared to be four male Anna’s hummingbirds jocking for position.

Not sure who they were trying to impress as I didn’t see a female in sight, but maybe they are like the sea lions where the male goes on ahead and fights for the best place on the beach.

In this case, they were fencing it out over the feeders.

And when I say fencing… I mean fencing!

They might as well been holding swords and parrying.

Diving and darting, you could almost imagine them as two opponents facing off.

They would sit in the tree and strut their stuff… in this case, flash their throat feathers called “gorget” (pronounced gor-jit) all the while keeping up their distinctive vocalizations.

Anna's hummingbird face on

As there were four of them and two feeders, there were lots to see and keep track of as to who was whom.

First, there was the “En Garde” as each sat ready in their own tree or branch.

Then the “feint” where they would make little forays off the perch to see what the other fellow might do.

Advancing towards each other one would start the “attack” with a “lunge” and the other would “parry“.

This is called the “engagement” and it is particularly exciting when they actually cross beaks and even more exciting when they do it when they are flying by your ear.

Turning around they come back for a “remise” until finally “disengaging” and returning to their branch to “recover“.

Fencing terms here.

They can keep this up for hours in between sips at the feeder to top up their reserves.

I’m not clear who won or even if there is a winner, but they will defend the feeder as long as they can take flight.

All I know is that on a rainy afternoon in January, their feisty spirits brightened my day and renewed my love for all things birdy.



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