As I scanned through some of last year's photos, I came across this one of an adult male that showed up in our yard mid-migration. It was around the first week in August when several males started appearing. They tend to spend several days feeding and fattening up before continuing on their southern journey. What I saw was not common, but I do see once in awhile. This adult male shows early signs of molting. At the base of his bill and around his eye you can see small pin feathers starting to develop. This is a common process that all birds go through annually. It's a process that usually happens at a lesser time of significance in the year. During breeding season the males are brilliantly colored in order to put on the display of their life. Every feather is in perfect condition during this time in order to impress any possible mates. You just don't see a drab looking male during these times. The times of molt will happen after this significant period of breeding is well completed. During the times of breeding those perfect feathers take a real beating, some torn and badly damaged, while others go completely missing, a lot of this happening due to serious battles among competing males. Although many of us think that the females take on the biggest workload during nesting, breeding takes a serious toll on the males. They put on far more miles than you could possibly imagine during breeding season, and if it's not scouting out newly arriving females, their energy is spent in fierce battles with other males, sometimes costing them their lives.
In the end of breeding season, the males will go through a lull of activity. Although they still want to defend their feeders, they restrict their territory to much smaller than it was prior. They begin to gather energy in order to rebuild new feathers for the next time around.
Here we have an adult male still protecting his feeder, but limits the amount of time in chase. If it was earlier in the season and another hummingbird showed up at his feeder, his chase wouldn't stop until it reached the next county. But for now, he sits and rests after another season of success.
Ruby-throated hummingbird, August 2016, N.E. of Edmonton, Alberta.
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