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Love or War? The Truth About Hummingbirds’ High-Speed Chases

Love or War? The Truth About Hummingbirds’ High-Speed Chases

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Hummingbirds are small songbirds known for their colorful feathers and beautiful singing voices. Like any other bird, they’re a wonder to watch, mainly because of their exciting habits, characteristics, and behavior.

If you’re a keen birdwatcher or have bird feeders in your backyard, you may have noticed a tendency most hummingbirds have. They enjoy chasing each other.

You may be wondering: why do hummingbirds chase each other? Is it friendly, or is it an act of aggression towards other birds? Perhaps it’s something else entirely!

In this article, we’ll take you on a journey into the world of hummingbirds. You’ll discover the answer to these questions and more!

We’ll also give you a few pointers on how you can stop this behavior if it’s becoming a nuisance in your backyard. Let’s get started.

Why Do Hummingbirds Chase Each Other?

It’s not atypical in the bird world to find two birds chasing after one another. Similarly, hummingbirds keep up with their species’ norms by often running after each other.

While the action may be familiar, the reasons vary. For starters, if a hummingbird considers its fellow hummingbird a threat to its territory, it’ll kick it out.

The amazing thing is behavior isn’t gender-specific. It’s carried out by both the male and the female. Although, males are known to attack other males while, interestingly enough, females will chase out both genders.

Not just that, but a male hummingbird usually dominates around half an acre of land. That’s their fighting ground. Females, on the other hand, are only responsible for defending the area surrounding their nests.

In other words, hummingbirds are as territorial as any other animal species. When a male finds an area suitable for mating and has an abundant food supply, he’ll guard it with his life.

That statement is no exaggeration either. In extreme cases, when an intruder tries to enter a territory that isn’t his, the guarding hummingbird will challenge him to a duel.

They use their beaks and talon claws to fight one another. Both hummingbirds continuously ram into each other until one of them gives up or, unfortunately, dies.

Considering the above, you may conclude that hummingbirds are naturally aggressive. That’s not the case, however. In the next section, you’ll see how a hummingbird can be a threat to another.

How Do Hummingbirds Threaten One Another?

Fascinating as it may sound, watching two hummingbirds fight to the death in your backyard can be gruesome. These battles increase further during the withering season in the fall and when migration time approaches.

Here’s the thing, when winter approaches and the blooming of flowers start to fade, hummingbirds become desperate for food. This leads to them becoming extra protective of their territory.

Consequently, any fellow hummingbird trying to get food before the cold sets in is seen as a problem that must be eliminated. The dominant male of the territory will then chase the threat out. Unless the intruder is a female, the male is more likely to court her than attack.

The other instance in which a fellow hummingbird is labeled a menace is before migration. During this time, all birds are busy preparing for the long-distance flight.

This puts primal feeding spots at a disadvantage because every hummingbird will want a quick snack before flying off. As such, the male hummingbird stands on the lookout to scare away any unwelcome guests.

When it comes to the female hummingbird, she considers her entire species a threat to her nest and babies. She even kicks out her husband right after mating!

That’s mainly due to the fact that the colorful feathers of male hummingbirds attract other ferocious predators, such as cats and hawks. So to keep her young safe, she kicks out any males that attempt to approach her or her nest.

Similarly, female hummingbirds see other females as a problem. The reason for this mistrust is that mothers have been known to steal food from neighboring nests. In some cases, they’ve gone so far as to steal the young of another hummingbird.

Are My Hummingbirds Fighting or Mating?

It’s important to know whether your backyard hummingbirds are chasing each other because they’re fighting or mating. Either way, you can’t interfere.

The problem is that hummingbirds come across as being aggressive to one another. That’s why what you may think is two birds fighting could be their unique courting ritual.

Below, we’ll explain how hummingbirds carry out each action in further detail. This way, you can tell them apart.

How Do Hummingbirds Fight?

A hummingbird uses sound as its first course of action when it finds itself bothered by a fellow bird. It’ll chirp, buzz, or chitter loudly to alert the intruder and let them know that they’re trespassing.

The pitch and speed of a hummingbird’s song will indicate how strong the threat level is. It’s also a way for the guarding hummingbird to show off its strength to the unwanted visitor.

If this line of defense fails, a hummingbird will change its posture. For example, it might puff out its chest to make it look twice as big. Other times, it spreads its wings open and raises them upward in a fighting stance to scare off the intruder.

Additionally, a hummingbird may flare its tail, raise the feathers of its crown, or point its bill at the intruder. All these carefully planned tactics are their attempt to discourage the unwanted visitor from staying.

With persistent intruders, a hummingbird’s next resort would be to chase them out or dive towards them while chirping as loud as they can. They’ll keep repeating this menacing dive and won’t stop until the threat is well away from their territory.

If all else fails, a hummingbird will have to fight off the threat, as we mentioned before. These talon duels lead to serious injuries that result in the death of one of the hummingbirds, sometimes even both.

How Do Hummingbirds Mate?

Likewise, sometimes a hummingbird will put on an extravagant show in hope of catching the attention of a nearby female. Yet, it’s the way hummingbirds start their courtships that can come across as an aggressive feat.

For instance, a male hummingbird might engage his female counterpart in a dancing chase as a way to court her. It’s a playful practice and can be quite fun to watch.

During this dance, the male will regularly stick out his chest, flap his wings, and continue to show off his colorful crown feathers. Unfortunately, this behavior is often taken as an act of aggression, so it doesn’t impress many females.

The good news is that the male has other tricks up his sleeve. If the first courting ritual doesn’t work, he may opt for a dive display instead. It’s interesting to watch, but it resembles how a male hummingbird would dive-bomb an intruder, which can be confusing if you don’t know how to differentiate between them.

During this dive display, the male hummingbird flies or climbs up 60 to 130 feet up in the air. Next, he turns and dives down nose-first towards the ground. Then, at the last second, he’ll stop in mid-air, honk at the female with his tail, and wait for her approval.

Another mating ritual is the shuttle display. It’s less aggressive than the other two because it involves an elaborate routine that consists of singing and dancing.

Simply put, the shuttle display is an affectionate way of seducing the female. The male hummingbird would serenade her with gentle music while flying back and forth above her in U-shaped circles.

In any case, if the female is interested or is impressed by the male’s show of strength, speed, and virility, she’ll react accordingly. For example, she might open her wings or fly to a nearby perch and spread her tail feathers. If there’s no reaction, then the male has been rejected.

One of the easiest ways to identify whether hummingbirds are mating or fighting is by checking what time of the year it is. Hummingbirds typically court each other in the warmer months, which means their mating season starts in March and lasts until about July.

Do Male Hummingbirds Chase Off Females?

Male hummingbirds may be small and only weigh a nickel, but they’re known for their robustness and aggressive streak. Among the most violent hummingbird breeds are the Ruby-throated and the Rufous hummingbird.

Even though the males can get into dangerous fights with other males, they won’t do the same if a female hummingbird threatens them.

Interestingly enough, hummingbirds are a polyamorous breed, meaning the male is allowed to pursue multiple partners at once. Considering that the female kicks him out of the nest after mating, the male hummingbird also doesn’t need to stick around and help raise the young.

The bottom line is that the male hummingbird always sees the female as a potential mate but rarely as a threat. So, outside of mating seasons, or when the food is scarce, that’s probably the only time you might find a male hummingbird chasing a female.

Remember, just because it’s a male on female fight doesn’t mean that it won’t quickly turn ugly. A female hummingbird, especially a mother wanting food for her kids, can be extremely fierce.

Plus, female hummingbirds have been known to become hostile not only towards a threatening male but also with bigger predators and even humans. What a female hummingbird lacks in strength and color, she makes up for with her relentless resilience.

Do Hummingbirds Fight over Feeders?

A common problem many backyard owners face is that they often find hummingbirds fighting over the perched bird feeders. As we’ve established, these birds can be pretty territorial and overly protective of their territory.

Additionally, the chances of you spotting hummingbirds chasing after each other will increase if you have multiple feeders laid out. This makes your backyard the place to be—what with all the food laying around.

The one drawback is that you’ll start seeing multiple males wanting to take over the entire area. As a result, you’ll find them continuously fighting over who should be the righteous owner of your backyard.

This can pose a problem for you in many ways. For one, you’ll have to listen to their ceaseless chirping and fighting. A second problem is you might wake up to find dead birds in your garden.

Another potential inconvenience is that they may damage any plants or flower pots on your patio. In addition, their feisty battling will likely scare off other birds from approaching your feeders.

Plus, female hummingbirds will gradually start to avoid your backyard. They’ll come to realize it’s become an unsafe place to build their nests and fly off in search of a calmer, less noisy place.

How Do You Stop Hummingbirds from Fighting over Feeders?

Luckily, there are a few things you can do to control any aggressive behavior happening in your backyard. It’s actually pretty easy and will save you a lot of heartaches —and headaches—in the long run.

An excellent place to start is to set up multiple bird feeders. If there’s enough food for everyone, they won’t have a reason to get violent. You can think about adding some flowers, such as bee balms and foxgloves, for extra food too.

Set up the feeders far apart to ensure that every male hummingbird is satisfied. Also, make sure they’re hidden from one another’s sight as much as possible. This helps limit the fighting and keeps everyone happy.

Final Thoughts

So, why do hummingbirds chase each other? The quick answer is that they’re fighting over territory, or it’s mating season.

Territorial chasing sometimes involves more violence and is more constant throughout the year. It mostly happens between male hummingbirds. On the other hand, mating is limited to two seasons: spring and summer. Usually, it doesn’t last for too long, and a female hummingbird has to be present.

With that said, there are ways around handling aggressive behavior in hummingbirds. Keep what we advised above in mind. This way, you’ll be making the birds visiting your backyard feel safe and happy while they eat!


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