"Hummingbird Ceasefire Zone" will be my rock band's first album title
June 7, 2011 10:00 PM   Subscribe

Why do hummingbirds get along at this particular feeder and not at others?

There's this hummingbird feeder at the Rio Grande Nature Center in ABQ, NM, right outside the observation window, and there are frequently multiple hummingbirds drinking from the same feeder there. I've never seen this happen at other feeders; usually the hummingbirds seem to get in fights and drive each other away. (My dad, a regular at the RGNC, asked some of the volunteers there what it is about that particular feeder, and they said they didn't know, but there are other feeders at the reserve and they seem to be one-at-a-time feeders where hummingbirds will chase each other away.) Here's a blog entry with pictures of the feeder (the second and third photos are of the one I'm talking about where the hummers seem to get along), in case it's something special about that particular feeder.

What's up with that? Is there something magic about this feeder?
posted by NoraReed to Pets & Animals (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
because there are multiple feeder-juice spouts? thus allowing all comers to get some super feeder- juice and not have to chase each other from a single source to get access?
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 10:28 PM on June 7, 2011

Response by poster: Most feeders have multiple feeder-spots, though. The one on my family's porch has 2, the one in the backyard has 3. They chase off other approaching hummers at those.
posted by NoraReed at 10:54 PM on June 7, 2011

Almost all bird behavior is related to food, avoiding predators, and reproduction, so I have two guesses:

-The feeder is in a location with an abundance of food, which means there's no need to spend energy to protect a limited resource.

-The feeder is in a location that, for whatever reason, is not a desirable breeding area. No idea if this is happens with hummingbirds, but male birds will typically establish a patch of land as their turf so that they alone have access to females in that area.
posted by hydrophonic at 5:34 AM on June 8, 2011

Perhaps they're nest-mates who were hatched nearby? I don't know enough about the hummingbird life-cycle to know how likely this is, but often times when I've seen a small group of normally solitary birds together (robins, raptors, wookpeckers, etc.), they seem to be are immatures who are fully fledged but still hanging around with their parents.
posted by Johnny Assay at 8:02 AM on June 8, 2011

Best answer: Ah, we studied this in field ornithology! The feeder that is a cease-fire zone is placed so that it's pretty impossible for one male to bogart it and defend it as his personal source of food - ie it doesn't have a good perching spot nearby to guard from, has lots of spoots, and is just too dang hard guard. It then becomes a communal food source.

One of our profs had a bunch of feeders on his porch that had Tons of hummingbirds at them for the same reason, and then one feeder off in the trees that got only one pair because everyone else got chased off. It was a pretty cool illustration of this same effect!
posted by ldthomps at 9:10 AM on June 8, 2011 [2 favorites]

ldthomps, what would make a feeder spot "hard to defend"? I have three hummingbird feeders at my new house, and would be happy to adjust their placement to encourage traffic.
posted by wenestvedt at 11:29 AM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

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