Watching hummingbirds in your yard is such a pleasure. That is until you get one that starts to bully all the other hummingbirds away from your feeders. Learning how to stop a bully hummingbird is quite easy once you know-how.
This guide will take you through what you need to do to stop the aggressive hummingbirds at your feeder. First, you need to know why hummingbirds act this way to deal with the issue.
Why are hummingbirds aggressive?
Hummingbirds are solitary birds. That means they spend most of their time alone and fending for themselves. Hummingbirds need to look out for number one and they are not good at sharing.
Being solitary is a survival tactic by hummingbirds. It means they don’t have to share food with others. So if they find a good food source they’ll want to keep it for themselves.
Hummingbirds are very territorial because their life depends on it. They have to believe that each food source they find has a limited supply. Hummingbirds have the experience that flowers only bloom for a short period of the year and then die off. They don’t understand that a hummingbird feeder won’t die off.
Really it’s all about supply and demand. If they think there is only a little bit to go around, then they want to be the ones that get it. With that comes fighting off other competing hummingbirds.
If a hummingbird doesn’t get enough food every day they’ll die off. That’s why an aggressive nature is essential for them to live longer.
The ability to find and protect a good food source helps them attract mates. It also ensures their offspring survive by having access to the same food source.
Hummingbirds are not just aggressive with other hummingbirds. They can be seen fighting with other animals that threaten their food source including orioles, bees, and butterflies.
How do Aggressive hummingbirds behave?
Often aggression in hummingbirds can be mistaken as frolicking. Yet there is a scale of how hummingbirds show their aggression. This can range from mildly irritated to outright physical fighting.
The aggressive behaviors a hummingbird will display depend on a few things. This includes the availability of food, the species of hummingbird, and the type of animals they are chasing off.
Hummingbirds start putting out an initial warning to let others know that this territory is theirs. This usually involves loud, fast, and high-pitched chirps. They will also fly at a faster pace as the buzz from their wings creates extra noise to threaten the imposter.
A bully hummingbird will want to give off a display that they are big and not to be messed with. They will change their posture by fluffing up feathers and spreading their wings and tails. Some hummingbirds may display certain colors on their throat feathers as a sign of danger.
Hummingbirds will hone in on the intruder and start to dive toward them at great speeds. This is a tactic used to unnerve the intruder and make them feel unsafe. This is a behavior used by hummingbirds if the intruder had ignored the noises and posturing.
Often this behavior can be confused with a mating swoop the males do to attract female attention during the breeding season.
If the intruder is not taking the hint then the bully hummingbird will need to physically remove them from their territory. They do this by chasing them off. A hummingbird will chase the intruder far enough away that they are out with the territory and not seen as a threat.
Chasing is also part of the mating ritual, however, males won’t chase females out of their territory.
If the intruder returns to the bully’s territory despite being chased off, then a fight will likely ensue. A hummingbird fight involves them using their beak and talons to injure one another. Although the physical part takes place in short bursts. Most of the fight is facing off against one another to try and gain ground.
The less dominant hummingbird will eventually tire and give up. Most hummingbird fights go without serious injury. But, one wrong move can kill another hummingbird.
Which hummingbird is the most aggressive?
The two most aggressive hummingbirds in the USA are the rufous and the ruby-throated species. The rufous hummingbird lives and migrates over the west coast states. Whereas the Ruby-throated hummingbird migrates over the eastern states.
The reason these hummingbirds are the most aggressive is due to them having large migration paths. This means they have to cross a lot of territories every year. Each time they come to a new territory they need to secure a good habitat and food source.
Male hummingbirds always migrate first, so they are the ones needing to secure a territory. They need to hold their own in each area and being aggressive is the best way to do this.
For Rufous hummingbirds, you’ll see the peak of aggression in mid-July. With ruby-throated hummingbird, you’ll see peak aggression at your feeders around late August.
Why you need to stop bully hummingbirds
Territorial and aggressive behavior by hummingbirds is natural to them. This aggression benefits them in the wild, yet it’s unnecessary when they are using hummingbird feeders. They don’t know that but it’s detrimental to their health.
Let’s look at a few reasons why it benefits hummingbirds to stop a bully in its tracks.
Aggressive behaviors amongst hummingbirds expend a lot of energy both for the aggressor and the intruders. The bully hummingbird has the advantage that they’ve won the nectar feeder and have a good supply to refuel. The intruder then needs to double up on finding nectar to replace energy that has been lost.
If the intruder can’t replace the energy wasted during a territorial fight then they will simply die from lack of food.
Most hummingbird fights mainly consist of facing off against one another. Yet every so often they can get physical. A beak or talon injury can cause result in a hummingbird contracting a disease or becoming more vulnerable to predators.
An aggressive hummingbird may also pick a fight with a bigger bird such as an oriole. Larger birds can easily kill a small hummingbird.
Stops other hummingbirds feeding
One or two bully hummingbirds at your feeders will stop other hummers from coming around. That means the effort you put into maintaining your feeders will only benefit a few hummingbirds. This can be extremely frustrating if you want to see more.
Ruins your enjoyment
Bully hummingbirds make it difficult for you to enjoy your backyard birdwatching experience. Not only do they scare off the other hummingbirds, but they disrupt the serenity of watching the hummingbirds flutter around. Instead, you have to watch the hummers fight and be stressed out.
How to stop a bully hummingbird
Although aggression is natural for hummingbirds there are ways you can train them. The idea is to make them aware that there is plenty to go around and they can get their fair share without fighting with others.
Let’s look at how you can do this.
1. Buy More Feeders
You are much more likely to have an aggressive hummingbird at your feeder if you only have one feeder available. To the hummingbird that one feeder is their territory and they’ll keep all others out.
Buying more hummingbird feeders is a great way to create the supply for your hummingbird’s demands. With more feeders available then everyone gets a seat at the table.
For that reason, I highly recommend you buy several hummingbird feeders with at least 10 ports to feed on (these ones are a good option).
2. Be Mindful of Design
The feeder design is important to preventing hummingbirds from thinking the supply of nectar is reducing. If they feel this way then they’ll start to panic and become more aggressive with the other hummingbirds.
You want a feeder that has a shared supply of nectar. That means if it runs out then it affects everyone at the feeder.
Individual or mini hummingbird feeders (like these) mean only one hummingbird can access their own supply. So if one feeder runs out and another is still full, then the affected hummer will likely attack another hummer to gain their spot.
Also, be mindful of hummingbird feeders with straw-like spouts. These can often become blocked and give the hummingbird a sense there is no more nectar left.
3. Space Feeders Out
Once you have several feeders in your yard, you’ll want to space them out. To do this try to line them up with around 15-20 ft. between feeders. This makes the bully hummingbird aware of others, but they can’t physically defend all the feeders at once.
You can also try creating individual territories for hummingbirds around your yard. Keep each feeding cluster out of sight from one another. That way the hummingbird will claim their safe space spread over your yard. Remember to offer a few feeders at each area to avoid a single bully dominating each space.
4. Plant Native flowers
Creating an area where hummingbirds have access to both your feeder and natural nectar sources is ideal. This allows the hummingbirds to spread out and find other sources close by.
Ideally, you want to plant nectar-producing flowers that are native to your area. The hummers will fleet between these and your feeders. Flowers also attract insects which is another essential food for hummingbirds.
You can plant flowers in beds around your yard, or even place hanging baskets on Shepard’s poles between your hummingbird feeders. This is great if you can’t maintain a lot of feeders every few days.
5. Prune the Snags
Hummingbirds love to rest in-between foraging for food. You’ll find that they will choose a favorite spot on a branch of a nearby tree or shrub. These snag spots are often old dead branches that are sturdy and provide protection.
Bully hummingbirds will often locate a snag branch in an area that offers them a great vantage point. From this branch, the hummingbird will have a great overview of the feeder and be able to spot an intruder straight away.
The best way to slow them down is to find this snag branch and prune it back. They’ll find another branch but it won’t have the same benefits as the one they initially picked.
6. Be consistent
Hummingbirds will return to the same territories year in and out. Once they see your yard is a good food source they’ll come back again and again.
The important part is that you need to provide them with a clean and consistent food source. This gives the hummingbirds security that they can rely on your feeder to survive.
Keeping your feeder well filled will help the hummingbirds learn that they don’t need to be territorial as there is always enough to go around.
Aggressive hummingbird at your feeder can be a real issue. It is harmful to the hummingbird and takes the enjoyment of watching them away from you.
Stopping bully hummingbirds at your feeders is easy. You just have to understand that their behavior is a survival strategy based on supply and demand.
Offer them more supply and they won’t act so aggressively at your feeder. Other things to help minimize this behavior include spacing your feeders out and stamping out the bully’s vantage points. Keeping your feeder constantly full will also help hummingbirds realize that your yard is a plentiful food source. They’ll soon learn they don’t need to put up a fight.
Use these techniques and peace will be restored amongst your hummingbirds in no time.