5 am and I woke to the alarm. I looked out the window to see only a hint of light. Today was going to be a day like none other. The night before was chaos in the yard as the hummingbirds fought for food and territory and continued to near dark, so I just knew that the hummingbirds had stuck around through the night and that this morning would be one of the busiest of the season. The excitement was quickly building for me as I made my way downstairs and gathered my equipment.
I opened the door quietly and stepped out into the fresh morning. The silence was piercing. I sat down and tried to see through the darkness, but the only thing I managed to see was the nearby hummingbird feeder. Nothing was moving yet, but within seconds a Song Sparrow woke the morning. It was like an alarm for all the other songbirds. Gradually the garden started to come to life.
As I sat there listening to the odd song, I suddenly heard a "chewp" to my right. It was an unmistakable warning from a woken hummingbird. It let out another "chewp", and then another. Then to my left I heard a "chewp". With every second that passed, the entire yard started to liven up with "chewps". The first one started to speed up and repeat this sound, as did the others. After about 30 seconds it was nothing but a chorus of angry hummingbirds from all corners of the garden, all warning the rest not to touch their own feeder that they had guarded the night before. You can't imagine the intensity of what was beginning. Each hummingbird was vocal from every location in the garden and as they all stretched their wings they got ready for battle .
Within the minute, squeaking and fighting began. I was soon able to see about 5 feeders nearest me, but the squeaking towards the back of the garden was nothing more than audio. I couldn't see what was going on back there but I could hear it all. They all started to move in all directions when a few hummingbirds passed over the house into the garden. It was an ambush. These few split in different directions and headed towards a feeder of their choice. Each one of those feeders were guarded, so the chasing began, and in moments it was chaos once again. The fighting intensified and continued until about 8 am. By then a few migrants had gained a meal and continued on while the ones that remained, sat in guard of their feeders once again, ready for the next invasion.
Ziggy, the dominant Ruby-throat hummingbird male. He's the one that set up territory early in Spring and has remained to be the last male. When there's enough light he moves to this tiny perch low down in the garden. Sometimes a squeak is enough to encourage other hummingbirds to avoid his feeder, but other times he lunges from this little perch in protection of the only feeder he watches. He has now surrendered all of the other 8 feeders to other junior males starting a legacy of their own. August 10, 2018.
Author of Jewel of the North. Please post your comments and questions.