Rufous Hummingbirds Fighting at the Feeder

by Larry Jordan on August 29, 2012

Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus) Female photos by Larry Jordan

The Rufous Hummingbirds (Selasphorus rufus) are passing through on their way South to Mexico for the winter. In the past few weeks there have been several at the feeders and feeding from the flowers blooming in  the yard.

As usual hummingbird feeders are being guarded by individual birds. The female pictured above (click on photos for full sized images) is defending the same feeder that was guarded by a male Anna’s Hummingbird a few weeks ago, a testimony to the superior flight abilities of the Rufous Hummingbird.

There are also juvenile rufous vying for a spot at this feeder which I believe may be the offspring of this female. Why do I say that? I have witnessed behavior that I have never seen before. You can read about the behavior that led up to this incident in my 10000 Birds post “Rufous Hummingbirds Are Heading South for the Winter.”

It appeared that the adult female was teaching the juveniles to feed on nectar from the flowers. She would gently chase them away from the hummingbird feeder but allow them to feed on the sunflowers and Autumn Sage nearby. Then, while the adult was chasing off another intruder, one of the juvenile Rufous Hummingbirds gained a spot at the feeder.

If you have ever watched hummingbirds vying for a place at a feeder, you have probably seen an individual come into the feeder and hover above one of the birds that are feeding and tap them on the back with their feet trying to get their spot. That’s what the adult Rufous Hummingbird did here, but the juvenile didn’t fly away. It stood its ground! The following series of photos show the incident that ensued.

The adult female came in to chase the juvenile off the feeder. She is positioned here on top of the juvenile, pinning its wing down, apparently at this point keeping it from flying off.

Then she moves to a more dominant position on top of the juvenile…

as the juvenile tries to escape.

Then she just holds the juvenile there for a moment, motionless.

The entire event lasted a full minute as the adult female appeared to be instructing her offspring in the finer points of hummingbird dominance and how to stay out of trouble at a hummingbird feeder.

I was genuinely concerned for the juvenile’s safety after this skirmish but it flew off and came back to a position on a sunflower only a few feet from the adult, no worse for wear.

The adult must be the Mom. Don’t you think?

For more great bird photo fun, check out Anni’s Bird D’pot and Stewart’s Wild Bird Wednesday!

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

TexWisGirl August 29, 2012 at 10:11 am

certainly squashed it like a bug. 🙂


Pat August 29, 2012 at 11:26 am

Amazing capture of the action!


Adam Jones August 29, 2012 at 12:41 pm

Such amazing birds. I never tire of seeing them.


Andrew August 29, 2012 at 1:51 pm

Wonderful little birds to see..


ken schneider August 29, 2012 at 2:59 pm

I miss all the action that used to get underway around July 4th when we lived in the mountains of New Mexico. Those little Rufous Dive-Bombers would buzz in and just take over the place. I saw these encounters and they took place in a fraction of a second. You did a great job of showing the action!


Dian Miller August 29, 2012 at 5:43 pm

Hummingbirds remind me of small dogs with big attitudes. They are fearless and confident and so much fun to observe. I could never get tired of watching them. Great series.


phyllis oller August 29, 2012 at 6:32 pm

You`ve captured them in a way I`ve never saw before,thanks for sharing your story.I was told our males leave first for the migration.Our male is still here with the family.I wonder why they don`t all leave together?phyllis


Anni August 30, 2012 at 4:07 am

Wow….these images are superior action shots!!! I so love watching humming birds, and you’ve managed to keep me entertained PLUS your commentary gave me some great insight.

Thanks for linking up at the Bird D’Pot.


Stewart M August 30, 2012 at 4:34 am

Great set of shots – if the action is as you think it is, its a bit of “tough love”!

Still cant really believe you get birds like this is your garden!

Thanks for linking to WBW – Stewart M – Australia


Gail August 30, 2012 at 8:51 am

Gosh, I have never seen territorial behavior from hummers to that extent. Nature seems so cruel sometimes. I love your series here and learning more about them. These are great shots!


Mia McPherson August 30, 2012 at 1:37 pm

Great action images Larry, so glad the juvenile was okay after the skirmish!


Neil August 30, 2012 at 2:32 pm

Great action shots.


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