We’re winding up the year sharing the most popular — and we hope most compelling — Flying Lesson stories from 2020. Most of the posts are profiles of bird encounters, including this story, photos and video of the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds we spent time with this summer.
Only when we slowed the video way down and then blew it up could we see the ferocity of the encounter: The male Ruby-throated Hummingbird hovered above its competitor, then slammed bill-first into the female like a tiny gladiator.
The clash sent the two tumbling into the air. (See the video below.) Once again, the alpha male had done his job in the survival-of-the-fittest world of this smallest, most acrobatic of species.
Much of the daily routines of nature are invisible to us. They take place deep in the woods, fields or wetlands, often at speeds that obscure any real details. Even the most avid birders get mere glimpses of how birds interact.
But the spread of hummingbird feeders all across the U.S. each doesn’t just help support these birds. In exchange for a supply of hummingbird sugar water, we get a close-up look at the way birds establish territories, settle into pecking orders, help and compete with one another and fight to survive.
Here’s a video about the fierce competition playing out around the feeders: