Anna's hummingbirds vs bees on Salvia leucantha (Mexican sage)?
November 9, 2014 7:47 AM   Subscribe

There are a lot of Anna's hummingbirds and a lot of bees here. They both like a big Mexican sage. Yesterday I saw several hummingbirds in series dive down near the sage then pull up sharply with a sudden 'tweet' noise like a short blast on a whistle. Why are the birds doing that?

The birds' behavior is new to me. If they were trying to scare the bees away from the sage it would make a little sense, but the bees did not seem impressed.

The birds chase one another around a lot but this was different. It was almost as though they were taking turns doing it. Any idea what was up?
posted by jet_silver to Science & Nature (7 answers total)
Best answer: It's probably a dive display. The males are trying to impress females. The sound is actually made by their tail feathers.
posted by shrabster at 7:57 AM on November 9, 2014 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Agreed. From my Sibley guide:
Male hummingbirds of some species perform elaborate swooping or diving aerial displays for females. The paths followed during these display flights differ among species. A distinctive sound is produced at the bottom of the dive. Most species also perform a low, short (2- to 10-foot) band-and-forth movement called a shuttle display, often accompanied by tail-pumping and buzzing sounds.
The display for Anna's Hummingbird is described as a "steep, J-shaped dive, curling around at the bottom; often repeated on the same path"; and the "male dive display ends with explosive buzz/squeak tewk very similar to some Ground Squirrel alarm calls."
posted by Johnny Assay at 8:04 AM on November 9, 2014

Or maybe there's a praying mantis in the sage that they see? And are warning the others of it. Or scare the mantis away.
posted by RichardHenryYarbo at 8:05 AM on November 9, 2014

Response by poster: Johnny Assay - that description is on the money; the first time I heard the sound I thought it was a squirrel. Thank you.
posted by jet_silver at 9:09 AM on November 9, 2014

Best thing I saw this spring was two hummingbirds "fighting" over one of my feeders. Lots of in-air acrobatics and jousting, then they landed on the ground beneath a rhodo, and...

Oh. That's not fighting.

It was neat! And over quite quickly!
posted by Savannah at 10:00 AM on November 9, 2014 [4 favorites]

They do fight though. Birds and especially humming birds are vicious. If you see what appears to be a recently deceased male hummingbird on the ground, please leave it alone. It's probably stunned and will recover if you let it be.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 1:40 PM on November 9, 2014

« Older Please help me remember this game!   |   How to re-create a poor-quality microfilm scan Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.