Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Hummingbird Wars

It's been a peaceful summer at the hummingbird feeder - until now. The Rufous Hummingbirds have returned from their summer breeding in Alaska, Western Canada, Washington and Oregon and are terrorizing their way through the Rockies on the way to their winter homes in Mexico.

Mr. Rufous (named for his reddish-brown color) has decided this feeder is his and he spends the day guarding it! If anyone dares to come close he dive bombs the intruder to scare them away then returns to his post to continue to defend his territory. It's quite a show.

Prior to his arrival, our regular summer residents, the Broad-tailed Humming-birds, nicely shared the nectar. Their wings create a high-pitched buzz that advertises their presence. If I move slowly when one is at the feeder, I can actually get it to perch on my finger.

Take a close look at their legs - actually just feet. They cannot walk - they can just perch - but they more than make up for this deficiency in flight. They can fly forward, backward or just hover in one spot. They really are amazing little birds.

These are both female; the males have an iridescent throat patch that looks bright ruby-red in the sun.

Many people think humming-birds are attracted to the red color of the liquid in the feeder and add red food coloring to a sugar and water mixture, but commercial red food coloring actually harms the birds. We mix 3 parts boiling water with one part sugar and change the mixture every week.

Mr. Rufous has a couple of regular look-out points. His favorite is an Aspen Tree in the northeast part of the backyard.

He keeps a sharp eye on the feeder. Sometimes we have a dozen birds buzzing around doing aerial acrobatics.

Taking pictures of these small darting birds is quite a chore. Not only are they fast, they always seem to land with their back to me - and if I try to move from my position, they quickly take flight. I must have taken 300 shots to get just a few so-so pictures.

Today is cold, damp, dark and dreary - not a good day to capture iridescent colors.

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