Yes, hummingbirds are territorial and have a competitive nature! They generally are solitary creatures who are well aware of the work and value they bring to the world.
Hummingbirds are also intelligent birds – they always look for a good vantage point to defend their territory and can be pretty sneaky.
But when hummers are territorial, things can get intense, really fast!
Aggressive hummingbirds can ruin your relaxed afternoon – especially when all you want them to do is gather around your bird feeder and get along. But that’s not how it works!
Hummingbirds have many adaptations that allow them to live in trees and among flowers: they have long, narrow bills for extracting nectar from flowers; long, thin legs for perching; and high-speed wings for hovering at flowers’ entrances. They also have wings that help them fly at whooping speeds.
Although aggression wouldn’t be considered a desirable trait, this is normal hummingbird behavior. We can say that this is also some adaptation.
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Variables for aggressive behaviors
Hummers usually have good reasons to fight, and considering they are usually loners, it’s safe to assume they’re not that friendly.
Male birds engage the most in this territorial aggression
Hummingbirds can be the most aggressive in late spring, early summer (on rare occasions, this can go on well into the fall), or after hummingbird migration when they’re most hungry after traveling long distances.
During the winter, hummingbirds tend to be calm and relaxed.
Reasons for hummingbirds to be territorial
Few food sources / or too many in a tight space
Hummingbirds usually fight over sugar water or nectar. If your garden has enough sweet tubular flowers and feeders, that can help them be calmer.
When resources are scarce, it’s entirely normal for them to become tense. Just think about it: for such small birds that migrate for incredibly long distances and have a fast metabolism, they surely need a proper caloric intake to survive.
But it’s not enough to have plenty of feeders in your backyard; you also have to place them apart so that every hummer can enjoy their sweet nectar in peace.
Competition during mating season
They have to stand apart from their peers. Thus, when more males compete for one female’s attention, hummers can engage in aggressive behavior.
Sometimes these birds fight so that they can have enough space for themselves.
Mother hummingbirds must keep their “home” safe from other intruders, and fighting for their nest and babies will happen more during the breeding season.
Do hummingbirds fight when they become aggressive?
Yes, they most certainly do. When hummingbirds are prepared to fight, they expand their tail feathers and wings, raise their beaks, and show their gorget. Before attacking, hummingbirds usually chirp to notify the other of the danger, then use their beaks and talons to fight them.
Even if hummers are aggressive creatures, they don’t hurt each other too much because they typically choose other means of solving conflicts – other than fighting.
When hummers don’t fight, they chase each other mid-air, dive into each other, or make aggressive noises like buzzing or chirping.
Some species of hummingbirds are more aggressive than others. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are known to engage in more territorial behaviors than their peers. On the other hand, rufous Hummingbirds are the most aggressive hummers in North America. For such tiny birds, they sure do engage in many fights.
Mother hummingbirds are also more aggressive than their peers, especially if they have to defend their nests.
How to stop bully hummingbirds from fighting?
While hummingbird fights can be entertaining to watch, they can sometimes become too much – especially when you’re worried about these tiny birds. While they are not in grave danger, there are ways to help them fight less so that you can have some peace:
Distance hummingbird feeders from each other
A minimum of 15 feet is necessary.
Too many feeding stations in a tiny place means too many hummingbirds in your back garden. When many hummers are roaming around, the competition increases. Because of this, they engage in regular fights.
The solution is to widen the feeding territory (NOT to increase the food supply, as this won’t solve anything) and place feeders at a significant distance from each other.
The feeding area should be as wide as it can be, and consider the number of hummingbirds visiting your garden.
The feeders should always be placed in different locations (that look unlike each other), so hummers can have more options.
Watch their behavior and adapt.
Bird-watching can also help us understand what improvements to bring and what to change in our garden so that hummers can get along.
Follow these birds around (especially when angry), and observe the pattern in their behavior.
Changing things around
You can remove a hummingbird’s perch to decrease its territorial behavior. If nothing changes, move feeders around, experiment with different locations, and see if you notice a difference in their behavior.
Be on the lookout for potential predators.
Hummingbirds (especially females) can become defensive when they feel that they (or their babies) may be in danger. As a result, they may engage in many aggressive behaviors.
If you think something else is stressing out the hummingbirds, consider solving that issue and protecting them from dangers.