Over the last couple weeks questions have arose on the particular arcing motion that male hummingbirds do. I can't speak of all hummingbirds, but many including the Ruby-throat perform a pendulum arcing motion from 1 foot long to up to 30 feet long. This movement is just like a pendulum. With every downward swing the male will create a cricket sound as he swoops down overhead of a female to try and impress her, or over any other bird to intimidate it. Generally if the male remains focused for more than 30 seconds, it tends to be a female hummingbird grabbing his attention. Otherwise, he'll do this to scare the life out of any bird that sparks his short temper.
How often will he do this into the season? If it's for intimidation purpose, it'll last through until they migrate south. Even the juvenile males will adopt this tactic very quickly, as this behavior is stitched into their DNA. If it's for the breeding purpose, he will do this approximately 55 days before the last sighting in your region. This allows for the complete cycle of the female building a final nest and raising the young to fledge, and for the young to fatten up before they start their southern journey.
The adult males sole purpose is breeding and protecting his territory for arriving females in Springtime. Everything else is secondary, including bottles of sweet nectar scattered across the countryside. Those bottles of sweet nectar just encourage them to find territory near these sources of food. Their thought process is far simpler than we tend to think, but they are driven by the powerful urge to breed, which cannot be undone by any force other than its maker. Many people are aware of the tough role of the female in building the nest and raising the young by herself, but the energy consumed by the male over an entire season is exhausting when you consider the battles that ensue daily, some of which can be fatal. He will risk his life to keep control of his territory and breeding rights. This probably explains a lot when it comes to why these birds return to the same location every year. Their success in breeding is the most powerful tool to ensure their return to the same garden each year. Besides the fact that they entertain us throughout the summer, their purpose is very intentional. When life or death drives a bird to fulfill its purpose, nothing will stop the continuous cycle that we get to experience each and every year.
Ziggy, Adult Male Ruby-throat hummingbird, N.E. of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. June 2017.
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