Fight of the Hummingbirds

by John Briggs on July 29, 2011

in Bird Photographs, Birding Videos, Blog

While most of the birds that visit our backyards only defend a breeding territory, Hummingbirds are one of the few birds that will defend a food source. Just about anywhere that a Hummingbird finds food, it will fight to defend it even along its migration route to Central America.

The long drawn-out territorial fights can sometimes lead to injury or death, either from exhaustion or from the fighting techniques used by the aggressor. These delicate little birds will sometimes attack larger birds, such as Cardinals and even Crows.

Bird Photography: Hummingbirds Fighting

Wednesday was a beautiful day featuring bright blue skies and cool temperatures. I  cleaned and refilled our ten Hummingbird nectar feeders and took them outside to hang them back up. Once back inside the house, I watched the Hummers fill themselves with fresh nectar. All seemed to be happy with four female and five male Hummingbirds divvying up the feeders among themselves.

Suddenly, a male came streaking through the air and knocked another male from its perch on one of the feeders. The aggressor then made himself comfortable on the feeder hanger and began to preen. I quickly grabbed my camera and went to my favorite spot for photographing Hummingbirds, our bedroom window.

It wasn’t long and another male came by the feeder and the fight was on! Twirling, chattering and tumbling end-over-end in mid air, the pair fell to the ground. As they lay there in the grass, the male Hummingbirds used their bills just like they were swords. It wasn’t long until the dominant male had the other male flat on the ground, standing on top of it and stomping and clawing at the poor soul.

I couldn’t believe that this was happening within a few feet of where I stood and well within range to get photos of the altercation, and even video footage. I snapped away as if there were no tomorrow, hoping that my camera setting were close enough for at least half decent captures.

There were two separate fights between these two Hummingbirds. The first lasted about 30 seconds, and once the aggressor finished stomping the crap out of the other bird, they both flew away. The second fight lasted much longer. This time, the aggressor stomped and clawed at the other for about a minute and a half. I began to worry as the Hummingbird that was laying flat on its back stopped moving.

I thought about intervening, but just left nature take its course. Finally, the aggressor flew away, but the poor bird laying on the ground looked like it was dead. I slowly walked toward the motionless bird, quietly asking “Are you okay little fella?” When I was about six feet away, I noticed some movement and I stopped and watched the Hummingbird. Suddenly, with a chatter, the bird flew up into a nearby maple tree where it began preening its ruffled feathers.

I’ve watched Hummingbirds fight in mid air and tumble around on the feeders, but I have never witnessed these birds driving each other into the ground. I was completely awe stricken, with emotions ranging from wonder to worry thrown into the mix. I just couldn’t grasp the fact that these little jewels could be so violent.

Enjoy the photos and video from this incredible encounter, which I call the Fight of the Hummingbirds.

The following photos were taken with a Canon 7D and a Canon 400mm f/4 L IS lens. Simply click one of the thumbnails below for a full-sized view, and then use your arrow key to navigate through the rest of the photos. ©2011 John Briggs Photography | All Rights Reserved

The following video shows the aggressive Hummingbird giving the other a good stomping and then both flying away. I have other video clips showing the stomping and clawing in greater detail, which I will post on my Google+ page sometime this weekend.

Dimension: 560×480 | Video bit rate: 1000Kbps | length: 17 seconds
Playback: Click Play Button | Broadband Connection Recommended
Video: Fight of the Hummingbirds | ©2011 John Briggs Photography

Happy birding!

World Bird Wednesday


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