Some people may not understand the attachment that us "hummingbirders" have to these tiny little creatures. When they first start to show up in our garden, they have an innocence about them. They are naive to danger, and they flit and flutter almost clumsily through the flowers. They are baby like in much of their behavior and actions. They make us smile, and it doesn't take long before we claim them as our own. They become recognizable by certain traits and behaviors that are different from all the others. We name them as we do our pets. But they quickly mature, and within days they can leave with little warning. There is a void created in us when they don't return to our garden, but it's far worse when you see them rise up into the sky, watch them gradually disappear, and head to a place they've never known. We raise them like our own, care for them with special treatment, and then they leave, many of which will never return. It's extremely rewarding to watch a successful year come to fruition, but deeply sorrowful to watch them leave, only knowing this is what they're meant to do.
This youngster would show up multiple times throughout the day to feed from this Vermillionaire, and then go to the training feeder which he learned quickly. Juvenile male Ruby-throat hummingbird. N.E. of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
Life away from the nest was new and exciting. Flowers and color were everywhere, and temptation of food forced independence from his mother very quickly. He didn't want to sit around and wait for food to come to him, but rather explore the fields of food just waiting to be sampled. He spent much time in the flowers while squeaks and battles pursued all around him. He was intrigued with all the activity going on, but was soon initiated into the fast paced world of hummingbirds as the swift attacks from all directions soon involved him. It didn't take long before he too would witness a speedy hummingbird overhead and felt the need to chase it. Then the shiny red object hanging overhead intrigued him enough to give it a sample. This thing had flowers filled with nectar like he'd never seen in his short existence. The nectar went half way up the bill and didn't seem to run out like all the other flowers. He drank for a minute straight, and still the flower remained full. Then another hummingbird showed up at the feeder. Instant anger boiled over, and his "mine" attitude forced him to chase the other around the yard. He belted out an undeveloped squeak, performed his uncoordinated little intimidation arc, and let the other know that the feeder belonged to only him. He seemed quite impressed with himself has he showed off every little skill built into his DNA. He showed off to the point that he forgot about the task at hand. "My feeder"! He quickly flew back across the large garden, but on his way the anger began to boil over once again. From a distance he saw two other birds on his feeder. It was at this point that he earned his name. "Miles" was appropriate, as he came in like a wrecking ball. He bashed one off one side of the feeder, immediately turned, and smacked the other, and set the record straight to all that the feeder belonged to only him. Even Gunner retreated to a single feeder until his time to move on to a warmer climate. Since Gunner left, Miles now believes he's in charge. His little stature sure makes him cute, but his large attitude makes him fierce and one not to be messed with.
First image is Miles cleaning off the nectar after diving deep into the feeder, while the second image is him protecting his treasure right past sunset.
Juvenile male Ruby-throat hummingbird, N.E. of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. August 13, 2020.
Every year the question arises about whether to keep your feeders up, or pull them down to encourage birds to go south.
This year has been more unusual for me that any other year in the past. Spring was almost nonexistent, while we went from Winter right into Summer. Many of our perennials had a really late start and only flowered 2 to 3 weeks later than normal, although it worked out perfectly with having many perennials bloom at exactly the time the young hummingbirds were leaving the nest. Let me tell you, it's incredibly difficult trying to keep an eye on every island of flowers spread out over 1 1/2 acres. At no point in the day could you walk through the garden, or around the yard, without scaring several hummingbirds out of the clusters of flowers that are growing everywhere. I'm saying this because normally at this time, many of the perennials are finishing, and the annuals are the only things left in full bloom. I have 10 hummingbird feeders also spread across the yard. So right now things are more colorful than you can imagine, and the hummingbird food is so great, that it's only something hummingbirds dream of. So the question becomes, why aren't the hummingbirds staying in our garden. Well, the answer is both simple and complex. Simple answer, they do what they're instructed to do. The more complex answer simplified is that hummingbirds have a drive and desire and purpose so much greater than their love of nectar. They were fighting in our garden like their lives depended on it, for days, but by 7:00 AM the next morning half the hummingbirds had cleared out. That pull is so powerful, the desire is so great, and their purpose is so much bigger than the food they leave behind. Their lives and the species are 100% dependent on the obedience of their calling.
I believe the worst thing you could do is pull down feeders while they are in their peak feeding time to fatten up for the long journey south. Some females have late broods, and some are forced to start over after their nest has been robbed, and this produces young that are oftentimes lagging behind many of the others that have already gone. So let them feed until their heart's content, and until they get the call to move on. Otherwise, you're stripping them of a valuable source of food just at the time they they need it most.
Neither one of these birds owned the feeder, but were content to share until the owner got back from chasing another hummingbird. N.E. of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. August 6th, 2020.