Rufous Rough-and-Tumble

By , April 30, 2014

The rufous hummingbirds have returned to the “homestead” and are up to their usual behavior, belligerently guarding “their” feeders.

We’ve grown accustomed to the incredibly aggressive, fearless behavior of these tiny birds (see Hummingbird Wars) but I recently got a taste of it close up.

While sitting at the dining table the other day, I saw a hummingbird hit the window. We see this a lot, as they’re too busy dogfighting to pay attention to where they’re going. They usually bounce hard, and continue their activity, hardly registering the impact.

However, this one dropped like a rock!

This is a poor image, but it was the best i could get without disturbing the bird further (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

This is a poor image, but it was the best I could get without disturbing the bird further (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

I went outside and found it laying on its back. I tried to scoop it up, but it flew a few feet away, where it landed on the ground and collapsed on its chest and chin. I gently picked it up for a second (I held a hummingbird!) and it flew away again.

Unfortunately, every time it flew, another hummingbird would fly in to attack it viciously.

We always see them chasing each other, but I’d never seen the chaser catch up with its prey. It savagely pecked at it, which couldn’t help it in its dazed state. The attacker zipped away each time the stunned bird landed, but anytime the first bird took off, the attacker would be right there, harassing it.

I felt really bad—I wanted to protect it, but each time I got close enough to keep the other one away, the injured one would fly, bringing the attacker back.

I know full well that wild animals rarely, if ever, are helped by our efforts. The best advice is to leave them alone. Nature will and must take its course; our interference is just that. Still, I couldn’t resist trying to “help.”

The two birds finally disappeared in the trees on the edge of the door yard. No telling how it ended. I don’t doubt that the one who hit the window is fully recovered, and giving as good as he’s getting in the rough-and-tumble hummingbird world.

One Response to “Rufous Rough-and-Tumble”

  1. Jessie says:

    That’s sad. I would have had a hard time not helping as well.

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