Rufous Hummingbirds: August Fireworks

plh_6895rLike animated jewelry, the bright copper hummingbirds have been rocketing through our yard for the past few weeks. I’m constantly amazed at how something that small can go that fast. Rufous Hummingbirds are our special treat this time of year. In spring they migrate northward along the Pacific flyway, making the enormous trek from Mexico to Oregon, Idaho, or even all the way to southern Alaska, in order to nest and raise their young. Now that they’re empty nesters, it’s time for the return trip.

Some Rufous hummers go home the way they came, flying through California. Others head for the Rockies. No one knows why—maybe they just want a change of scenery. The upshot of their wanderlust is that those of us who live in Colorado get a late summer fireworks display. Starting in mid-July and running until Labor Day, these feisty birds dominate the feeders.

lah_6896rsI’ve hosted Broad-tailed Hummingbirds all summer. They arrived at the end of April, set up territories, and probably nested on our property (although I never found the nest). While defensive about their food sources, everyone seemed to be getting along… and then the Rufous Hummingbirds arrived. Suddenly, it’s pandemonium. This species apparently has some sort of inferiority complex. They’re smaller in size, but make up for it with a ferocious temperament that brooks no interference. The poor Broad-tails have to sneak in to grab a mouthful of sugar water—and they are immediately spotted and ousted. I’ve taken to hanging feeders in different parts of the yard to try and give everyone a chance. But it seems that no matter how many I hang up, more Rufous hummers arrive to own them. It’s good to know that hummingbirds rely on more than my sweet offerings—their main food source is insects.

lah_6858rIt’s all incredibly entertaining. I should have been working, but instead I was out on our balcony (where the feeders are hung), trying to grab shots with my camera and telephoto lens. Since I was wearing a copper-colored t-shirt myself, I was accosted several times by angry birds two inches long, insisting that I didn’t belong there. That’s all right. In another few weeks they’ll be gone, and life will settle down. I’ll miss my brilliant distractions.

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