Why Do Hummingbirds Fight? An In-Depth View Into This Behavior

December 12, 2021 // 8 minute read // 51 Shares

Articles » Why Hummingbirds Fight

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Hummingbirds are indeed fascinating little creatures. They are known for their tiny bodies and extraordinary flying abilities. However, apart from that, there’s one thing you can observe even if you’re just a new bird watcher – hummingbirds fight each other. 

So, why do these birds fight? 

Hummingbirds fighting is already considered a natural occurrence. This is because, despite their small size, these birds can undeniably be very aggressive, especially when it comes to claiming territory. 

In this article, we’re going to dive deeper into why hummingbirds fight. We’ll discuss the following topics: 

  • Why hummingbirds fight
  • The hummingbird behavior 
  • Signs you’ll see that show hummingbirds’ aggression
  • Ways to stop hummingbirds fights
  • Stopping bully hummingbirds
  • FAQs

So if you’re interested to know more, read on… 

Why Hummingbirds Fight

Hummingbirds are aggressive for one reason – they are very territorial. 

As these birds are tiny, there’s very little storage for energy. And given that their flying abilities use up most of their energy throughout the day, they need to eat frequently. This means that they can’t afford to lose any food source. 

So, when they find a good feeding area with an abundance of water, nectar, other food sources, and nesting materials, they wouldn’t want to share it with others. 

This is very particular in hummingbirds that live in areas away from human bird feeders, such as in areas where flowers bloom far apart. They can’t simply risk giving out a portion of their food source, especially if it means that they can die because of it. 

I guess this is where survival of the fittest really applied. Because when the food source is very low, only the most aggressive hummingbirds can survive. 

Hummingbird Behavior

Now, let’s look deeper into hummingbirds’ behavior. 

Hummingbirds often choose a quarter acre of land as their whole territory. And thanks to their keen eyesight, they can easily see any bird that enters their territory. And in a swift, they can immediately attack. 

Males are believed to be more territorial. They choose a territory and wait for female birds into their habitat while driving out any male birds that go there. 

Once a female enters their territory, they will exhibit territorial behaviors toward her, but not aggressively. This is usually in the form of playful chasing and diving. If you’re an inexperienced hummingbird watcher, then courtship displays can easily be seen as a defense movement, too. 

Females then define their territorial ground by building a nest. They also usually just focus on taking care of the offspring while the male wards off any intruders. This benefits the females the most, as their food is guaranteed, and they’re protected. 

How Hummingbirds Show Their Aggression

So, how do hummingbirds show their aggression? Hummingbirds show their aggression in four ways or four levels. 

Everything starts with warning sounds. This is done to threaten and intimidate any intruder that enters their territory. The sounds you’ll hear are loud and fast chirping. If the intruder doesn’t retreat after hearing the threats, these sounds will eventually grow louder and louder. 

While making these warning sounds, hummingbirds then start to change their postures. They’ll usually puff, spreading their tails and wings so they can look bigger, also to intimidate other birds. 

With males, they’ll start showing off their throat feathers to show the bright colors. They will then point their bill towards the enemy bird as if saying that they are ready to do anything to defend their current territory. 

When the warning sounds and changing of posture don’t scare intruders away, they will start chasing their intruders. They will chase them until they’re out of their territory. 

But, when those three don’t work, the fighting begins. As you can see, fighting seems to be the hummingbirds’ last resort. If they can intimidate their enemies, then that could be it. They don’t need to fight. 

However, it does become an option when there are stubborn birds that intrude on their territory.  

When they fight, hummingbirds use their sharp beaks and claws as their ultimate weapon. The less dominant birds will often run away, but most of the time, hummingbirds may resort to ramming their bodies against each other to beat their enemy. 

Ways To Stop Hummingbird Fights

Hummingbirds fighting is not a good sight to see. Fortunately, there is a way to stop this, especially if the fight happens in your bird feeders. 

As mentioned above, hummingbirds fight because of one reason – food. So, eliminate this problem from them, 

First of all, it’s highly recommended to install several hummingbird feeders in your backyard. This way, you’ll be able to feed more hummingbirds. 

There’s no use having a big hummingbird feeder with ten feeding ports, as there’s a big possibility that one dominant hummingbird will hog that bird feeder. So, install small ones, as there’s a good chance you’ll feed more. 

Second, you need to make sure that you place these hummingbird feeders away from each other. This way, hummingbirds won’t be able to see each other in the same area, resulting in fights. 

Third, try to observe if there’s a bully hummingbird nearby. Usually, these hummingbirds stay in one branch to watch the whole area. You can trim out its perching station, so there’s nowhere it can stake out and threaten other birds in the area. 

FAQs

Why are hummingbirds aggressive to each other? 

Hummingbirds are aggressive to each other mainly because of their territorial behavior. These birds need to supply themselves with lots of food because they have a very fast metabolism, and most of their energy stored is continuously used up. 

They need to get as much food as possible to survive. That’s why they find an area abundant in nectar, water, nesting areas or materials, and other food sources, they want to keep it to themselves. 

They can’t just risk getting hungry and dying when they share food.  

How do you keep hummingbirds from fighting?

Because hummingbirds fight over food, you can eliminate the fighting by providing more food. This means installing more hummingbird feeders and placing these hummingbird feeders away from each other. This way, hummingbirds won’t have to fight over one food supply.

Are hummingbirds aggressive towards humans?

No, they are not. 

Hummingbirds are motivated with food, but they are not dangerous to humans. They are quite curious, which causes them to fly towards you. But as long as you are not posing any threat, these birds won’t hurt you. 

In fact, there are many cases when hummingbirds even perch on a person’s finger while feeding. 

Are male or female hummingbirds more aggressive?

Male hummingbirds are more aggressive than females. They are the ones who search for territory and fight for that territory. It’s also their way to entice female hummingbirds to mate with them. 

Do hummingbirds stab each other?

Yes, they do. 

This might sound brutal, but the primary weapons of hummingbirds are their sharp beaks and claws. So, normally, when fighting, they will stab another hummingbird in the throat using their beaks. 

What hummingbird species is the most aggressive? 

Out of all the hummingbird species in North America, Rufous Hummingbirds are found to be the most aggressive. And this is quite surprising, considering that they’re also the tiniest. 

They are very territorial and have probably the worst tempers. This might be because they have very tiny bodies, so they definitely need more food as they tend to replenish frequently. 

Final Thoughts On Why Hummingbirds Fight

Hummingbirds are undeniably fascinating birds. But we can’t deny the fact that their small size makes it challenging for them to live in this big world. They needed to fight to survive, even if that meant not sharing food and letting other hummingbirds die looking for something to eat. 

It’s a natural process of selection, but as bird watchers, we can help. 

You can provide hummingbirds with more food. Just install more hummingbird feeders and make sure to place them a few feet away from each other so that more hummingbirds can eat. Trim some perches where the bully ones stay to give more opportunities for several hummingbirds to eat. 

This way, you won’t have to see hummingbirds fight. Instead, you’ll find them enjoying their food more without any worries. 

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