Hummingbird Behaviors

If you’re an avid bird watcher, you notice that hummingbirds have a unique behavior when compared to other birds. They are a lot of fun to watch and listen to, and the more you observe them, the more you’ll admire their quirky behavior. By paying attention to the way hummingbirds act, you’ll have a better understanding of how you can care for them. Here are some of the behaviors that make a hummingbird so fascinating.

Hummingbird Behaviors

Cleanliness

Hummingbirds are big fans of baths and groom themselves often. They have an oil gland on their back, close to their tail, that they use to cover their wings with by using their beak. They will use small twigs to assist in the cleaning process for areas that they cannot reach. If you can see them in a tree when they are grooming themselves, you might catch them swiping their beak against a small branch as if to sharpen it. They are actually using the branch to remove the pollen and dirt from their beak.

Hummingbirds love a good birdbath and will often use rainwater on leaves to clean their body. Then they will meticulously dry each individual feather. They enjoy drying themselves in a warm spot in the sun and fluff their feathers to ensure that each nook is free of moisture. Even baby hummingbirds like to stay clean and will often try to use the bathroom over the rim of the nest, or remove the mess once it happens.

Social Behaviors

Even though you may see hummingbirds sharing a feeder it does not mean that they are traveling together. Hummingbirds are very lone creatures, and if they are sharing a feeder, it’s probably not very happily. As long as there is plenty of food they won’t mind too much, but even then you might see a hummer who is out of their territory getting chased away.

Hummingbirds are very territorial and live divided by the areas they have claimed for themselves. You can expect a male to claim about a fourth of an acre, and females will stay close to their nests. While both will protect their territory, it’s the males that will be the most combative when it comes to keeping invading hummingbirds away. This helps the females because their will be more food for them, since the males have chased away the other aggressors in the area. They will attack each other, however, it does not usually result in serious injuries.

If you want to see more hummingbirds in your location, then you can add more feeders. Be sure that you spread them far enough apart that the dominant male doesn’t feel threatened by others feeding right next to him. Hummingbirds don’t like to feed side-by-side, so if you want to offer them a little privacy, invest in a feeder that has large flowers that blocks the view of the perch beside them when they are eating.

Courtship

Hummingbird males like to offer the females a little showmanship when they are ready for mating. Some will do a courtship dive, where they fly high into the air and then make a straight dive towards the ground. As they drop they’ll make sounds and whistles to try to grab the attention of their potential mate. Just before he reaches his mate in the flight down, he’ll arc back up, and do this again. This will let the male hummers know he is protecting his territory and let the female know he is ready for courtship.

Male hummingbirds might also do a mating dance in front of the female, exposing all parts of his body and flying in a way that he is able to prove his strength and control. He can also expose his chest and throat by puffing up and then move his head from side to side. This method shows how colorful he is in order to catch the attention of the female.

If the female is ready to mate, all she has to do is fan her tail feathers and perch on a branch. However, once the female is ready to nest and lay eggs, she does not let the males near her resting place. The vibrant colors of male hummingbirds will easily alert others to her nest and put her and the babies in danger.

Nesting

If you have the chance to watch a female hummingbird build her nest, you’re very lucky! Females are very selective in choosing where to build their nests. They will take great care in making sure they have food sources close by, and that no predators or weather elements will be able to disrupt their process. They will use many materials such as lichen and spider silk to build their nests and the females are especially tricky during this time. They will watch as other females construct a nest and they have no problem stealing away materials.

Intellect

Hummingbirds have proven themselves to be very smart and they have an excellent memory. It is thought that hummers remember every flower and feeder in their territory and on the route they take for migration. In fact, if they observe the same person filling the feeders in their territory, they may try to verbally alert you when the feeder is out of nectar. Because they are so observant, very little gets passed them.

Sleeping behavior

In order for hummingbirds to survive their nightly slumber, they have to go into a very deep sleep called Torpor. This allows them to slow down their metabolism and lower their body temperature. Torpor saves over half of their energy at night. When it is time to rest for the night, they’ll find a safe spot to perch and point their beak up in their air and puff out their feathers. Some hummers even hang upside down during the night. When they wake in the morning, it can take up to an hour for a hummer to fully recover from their deep sleep. In fact, some hummingbirds never wake up from Torpor due to weather conditions, illness and weaknesses.

Observing the behaviors of hummingbirds is a great way to relax and spend quality time in your environment. It does not take them long to get used to people, and once they do, you’ll be able to feed them by hand. They’ll communicate with you and the more you learn and understand their patterns, the better you’ll be able to help them thrive in your area.