© 2024 | WUWF Public Media
11000 University Parkway
Pensacola, FL 32514
850 474-2787
NPR for Florida's Great Northwest
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Keeping The Hummingbirds Happy Is A Tough Job


I have to issue a retraction. Recently in this radio spot I reported that I had cleverly solved a hummingbird fight over a feeder in my backyard by the brilliant solution of hanging a second feeder. 

A hummingbird bully was preventing others from sipping nectar from the original feeder, which the bully bird had taken ownership of. He had taken to simply sitting on the feeder, all day, taking flight only to repel any hummingbird that tried to take a drink. I figured that hanging a second feeder would either give him too much turf to defend, or else he would be satisfied since he would still have his own feeder.

For a day or two, this actually seemed to work. He remained at his feeder, while several other hummingbirds emerged to use the other one. But alas, the bully soon soured on this situation, and energetically took up defense of both feeders. What had been a limited scuffle became a full-fledged backyard brawl. At this point we had five to seven hummingbirds engaged in multiple skirmishes across our backyard. I say five to seven, because when hummingbirds are furiously zipping around the yard, engaged in multiple aerial fights, its hard to get an accurate count.

Meanwhile, more bullies emerged. At one point, while the original bully was defending the original feeder, another hummer, in like fashion, was defending the second one, which I had moved to a new location well away from the first feeder.  Moving it was my second brilliant attempt to defuse the situation. But it merely expanded the battlefield. Over time a general sense of weariness seems to offer some hope. Perhaps because of a full belly, the bully birds would at times watch another hummer feed from the same feeder, at least briefly, before chasing it away. And with so many birds vying for spots at the feeders, as the bullies are chasing one hummer into the next yard, a different bird will zip up to one of the feeders and grab a sip.

This does end in another aerial chase when the first hummer returns, only to see a different bird slip in for a sip. Anyway, they are still fighting. And, yes, it’s pretty entertaining. But with two feeders out, spaced well apart, there seems to be a general agreement developing among the combatants that everyone is going to get a taste. The resulting conflicts seem increasingly pro forma, and the constant refills needed for the feeders indicate a lot of nectar is being consumed. Anyway, I wanted to correct the record. And for the record, let me just say that trying to outwit small animals is definitely not for the faint of heart. 

Carl Wernicke is a native of Pensacola. He graduated from the University of Florida in 1975 with a degree in journalism. After 33 years as a reporter and editor, he retired from the Pensacola News Journal in April 2012; he spent the last 15 years at the PNJ as editor of the editorial page. He joined the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition in 2012 as Senior Writer and Communications Manager, and retired from IHMC in 2015.His hobbies include reading, traveling, gardening, hiking, enjoying nature around his home in Downtown Pensacola, as well as watching baseball and college football, especially the Florida Gators and New York Yankees. His wife, Patti, retired as a senior vice president at Gulf Winds Federal Credit Union and is a Master Gardener. Carl is a regular contributor to WUWF. His commentaries focus on life in and around the Pensacola area and range in subject matter from birding to downtown redevelopment and from preserving our natural heritage to life in local neighborhoods.