When I was in kindergarten, my favorite activity was sculpting figures with Play-Doh. I loved the smell and the way it oozed between my fingers when I squeezed it. Mrs. Honnald would place the cans on the table for us to share; this was the part I didn’t like. I wanted my own can. Of course, my parents taught me to share, but I still wanted my own. When it came to Play-Doh, the more I had; the better sculptures I could create.
Sharing doesn’t come easy to my favorite bird, the hummingbird, which frequent our feeder each year. In fact, these feisty, delicate creatures have no concept of sharing. If you want to add some excitement to your backyard, hang a hummingbird feeder or two and watch the wars begin.
The most common hummingbird in the Carolinas is the Ruby-throated Hummingbird. They’re also the smallest bird. A hummingbird can rotate their wings in a circle, allowing them to be the only bird that can fly backwards, up, down, sideways or stay perfectly still in space.
For such a tiny creature, these birds use more energy, and eat constantly, despite weighing only 2 to 3 grams. If we ate as much as a hummingbird, we would have to eat around 30,000 calories a day. They must eat late into the night and be early risers in the morning because if they sleep too long, they could starve to death.
The hummingbird has the largest heart in proportion to its body. It pumps 200 beats per minute at rest and 1000 during flight. They expend a huge amount of energy on their down and upstroke, so they must stay fortified. Nectar, from certain flowers, is their primary source of food. We mix sugar and water in our feeders. The sweeter the juice, the more exciting and acrobatic the wars become.
The aggressive behavior is typically strong in early summer when the birds claim their territory and defend their nests. Hummingbirds are intensely territorial when it comes to their feeding source. They appear to be the most angry and selfish well into the fall, as they fight for their prime feeding territory, in preparation for migration. These ill-tempered birds can be amazing to witness as they battle to maintain control of the feeder.
If another bird dares a quick sip at the feeder, while one is already drinking, he’ll make his move. In a split second, he swoops out of the sky and rams him off the feeder. They’re absolutely incredible creatures. One thing I’ve learned as they return each year is, like me and my Play-Doh; these little guys don’t want to share.