Have you ever witnessed hummingbirds chasing each other or fighting? Hummingbirds may be small, but they can pack a serious punch if you get on their bad side. So why do hummingbirds fight – with each other and with other animals? What are the usual signs of aggressive behavior in hummingbirds, and how do you keep them from fighting over your feeders?
In this article, we’ll answer all of these questions and more.
What You'll Learn Today
Why Are Hummingbirds So Mean to Each Other?
If you’ve ever witnessed a group of hummingbirds squabbling over your backyard feeder, you know that these tiny birds can have serious attitude problems. But, as it turns out, they usually have pretty good reasons for fighting.
Hummingbirds are extremely territorial. The males are driven to fight for their food and any areas where they have “staked their claim.” Females may also fight for food, especially if there isn’t much to go around, but they are especially protective of their nests and are sometimes known to chase away predators or other hummingbirds who get too close.
The reason for these behaviors are simple enough.
Hummingbirds fight for their food because they need a lot of it. They will eat as much as seven times per hour and will consume half their own body weight in a day. When they find a good food source, they aren’t particularly inclined to share.
Mother animals are almost always protective, and female hummingbirds are no different in that way. They will chase away any animals they consider a threat to their babies, and that may sometimes include other hummingbirds.
Another reason some hummingbirds are mean to each other is that it may be a part of their courtship rituals. According to the Huffington Post, the males of a hummingbird species called the long-billed hermit will engage in “jousting” matches and compete over the females.
Other species may also use aggression during mating season. The male hummingbirds of many species will actually attempt to attract females by chasing and fighting with them.
Hummingbird aggression is usually worst in the spring and summer months, when they are actively searching for new territories, building nests, and looking for food.
Hummingbirds show aggression in many ways, such as:
- Loud chirping or buzzing: If a hummingbird flies up to you while chirping noisily and buzzing frantically, they may be telling you not to get any closer. They will perform these same actions anytime they feel threatened and are attempting to warn the trespasser to back off.
- Body language: Believe it or not, hummingbirds often attempt to intimidate opponents by showing off their size and strength. Hummingbirds use body language such as flaring their tails or gorgets, spreading their wings, and raising their crown feathers to establish dominance and scare off intruders.
- Hovering and diving: Sometimes a hummingbird will hover above an opponent, then dive straight downward as if to impale the threat with its beak. The bird may or may not attack when performing this maneuver, but it is used as a strong warning to other hummingbirds or predators to surrender or leave.
- Chasing: One of the most common signs of aggression is when a dominant hummingbird chases other hummingbirds away from feeding or nesting areas. The bird doing the chasing will sometimes chirp wildly as they chase their intended target far from the area it is protecting.
- Fighting: Hummingbirds usually try to warn or chase other birds or predators before resorting to violence, but they are not afraid to pick a fight if their warnings don’t work. They will use their beaks to jab their opponent and their tiny but sharp talons to inflict as much damage as possible.
Why Do Hummingbirds Chase Each Other Away from the Feeders?
As noted above, hummingbirds aren’t very good at sharing. They don’t want other hummingbirds encroaching on their space or stealing their food, as you can see in the video below:
If a dominant hummingbird has claimed your feeder as its own, it will chase away any other hummers who try to get close because it is defending its food source.
How Do You Stop Hummingbirds from Fighting Over Feeders?
Of course, if you have hummingbird feeders in your yard, you probably don’t want one hummingbird attempting to keep them all to itself. Is there anything you can do to discourage the local hummingbird population from fighting with each other?
Space the feeders
If you have multiple feeders, spread them out throughout your yard instead of keeping them all in one spot. Hummingbirds are less likely to fight if they don’t all have to crowd together to get their food.
Use single port feeders
There are different kinds of hummingbird feeders.
Some have multiple feeding ports so that several hummingbirds can feed off the same feeder at once. Others have only one port so that only one bird at a time can feed.
Single port feeders will keep hummingbirds from clustering around their food source by allowing only one bird at a time to use the feeder.
Add more feeders
Of course, if you only have one single port feeder in your yard, the hummingbirds may still try to fight over it – especially if there aren’t a lot of other sources of food in the area.
If you have a lot of hummingbirds or you notice birds fighting over your feeder, consider adding additional feeders to your yard. Having several single port feeders spread out throughout your yard is the best way to keep the hummingbirds from fighting over them.
Can Hummingbirds Kill Each Other?
It is possible for one hummingbird to kill another, though it doesn’t happen often.
Hummingbirds use their long, sharp beaks like swords or daggers. They can easily impale each other when fighting, and if they do, the resulting injuries are often fatal.
As noted above, some hummingbird species will fight over females as part of their courtship ritual. Usually, these battles are to the death.
That said, most hummingbirds don’t deliberately attempt to kill each other. They are simply trying to defend their nests and resources or let the other hummingbirds in the area know who’s boss.
Hummingbirds fight for many different reasons. They may fight over food sources or territories, to establish dominance, or as part of courtship and mating rituals.
Hummingbirds don’t usually kill each other, but they are certainly capable of doing so.
To keep your neighborhood hummers from fighting over the feeders, you can spread them out throughout your yard. It may also help to use several single port feeders instead of one or two multiple port feeders, as this will keep the birds from clustering around their food source.