Cute but territorial. What a combo.
They return in August and September for a longer stay, visiting the odd remaining blooms and especially the feeders people put out for them. This is the time when they tank up for the long trip to Central America, where they will spend the winter.
Each year about this time, someone in our family suddenly notices a dark shape zooming through the yard, smaller than the other birds but larger than a bee. If I'm out watering the potted plants with the hose, I may get an inquisitive hummer come to check out the sound and maybe fly through the spray for a quick sip and dip. (They're attracted to running water.) As soon as one of us spots a hummingbird, I mix up a batch of sugar water and fill the feeder in the back, near my little water feature, which I can watch from the window seat in my den.
Hummingbirds are very territorial. Even though my feeder has six ports, one bird may guard the whole feeder, flying in from a nearby tree branch to run off any other birds. A few years ago, this defense was maintained by the alpha bird simply perching on top of the feeder's stand (you know, the ones that look like shepherd's crooks) and daring any other birds to come near. The last two years, I've had an especially territorial male, who has found a perch on a nearby pecan tree branch that gives him a clear view not only of my feeder, but of my neighbor's as well. He tries, not always successfully, to defend them both.
The antics are hilarious. The bird sits on the branch, sees another bird coming toward my feeder, flies out quickly to head it off, then stops in for a perfunctory sip from my feeder. The fun starts when he notices a second bird at the neighbor's feeder and heads off in that direction only to have a third bird glide in to my feeder for a quick snack.
I was able to get a few photos from my window-seat perch this week and was saddened to learn that the territorial male this year has been spending all his energy fending off not another male, but a female. Is chivalry dead? The poor female (easily identified, as she doesn't have the ruby throat) has to sneak in when the male is busy at the other feeder or otherwise cruising the neighborhood, but as soon as he sees her, he comes zooming back to do his menacing thing and off she goes.
Suddenly he's not as cute as he was. Oh, yes, the shimmering green back, the gleaming black eye, the shovel-shaped tail, the thumb-print red throat, the long black snout, the standing-up-in-the-air hovering that looks like a cartoon spaceman's movements - all that is still adorable. But, wow, he's trying to hoard two feeders with ten spouts between them all for himself while this less colorful but no less beautiful and precious female is turned away again and again. I want to go out there and give him a good talking-to.
I want him to have to attend hummingbird kindergarten where the rules are clear and simple: Share! There's more than enough for everybody!
Meanwhile, I think I'll get another feeder for the front yard. I know he can't see clear over the house.