Foiling a Bully Hummingbird

If you have a hummingbird feeder (or several), you may get a male who acts as though the feeder is his sole province. He will forcefully attack all other birds that attempt to visit the feeder, often crashing into them with a smack to drive them off. Hummingbirds are naturally territorial and aggressive, whether we like it or not.

Conventional wisdom said to offer multiple hummingbird feeders out-of-sight from each other—perhaps a feeder in the front and the back of your house, or around the corner from each other. This strategy works best if you have only one bully, and just a few others. Another strategy is to group all of your feeders in a tight clump—with feeders just a few feet apart. In late summer, when adults and the young birds from the first and second broods are all trying to visit the feeders, territorial male hummers will get tired and overwhelmed. Soon they will just give up and let everyone feed in peace. This approach, too, has mixed results.

If both strategies fail and the bullying causes you anxiety, you may have to stop feeding the hummingbirds! Rest assured that they will not starve without our generosity. The hummingbirds don’t need food from humans. For countless millennia hummingbirds have been thriving with no help from humans. And for as long, some hummingbirds have been bullies. It is a characteristic of the species. We feed birds to draw them close to us and give us joy, and, maybe, to make their lives a bit easier. If feeding them doesn’t give you joy, take down your feeders.

Wishing you happy hummingbird feeding from the staff of Bird Watcher’s Digest!