Saturday, August 28, 2010

Saturday bird watching

We are in the middle and nearing the peak of Ruby-throat Hummingbird fall migration here in Southeast Texas. These little birds are very territorial and have a downright curmudgeonly nature that belies their gorgeous appearance.

They are normally solitary creatures and do not tolerate others of their kind. The females even go so far as to opt for single motherhood, building the nest, laying the eggs and caring for the young on her own while the male goes on his merry way.

In late summer and in autumn, as wave after wave of the birds that have spent their summers farther north wing their way south, they encroach on established territories and battles ensue. Hostilities never cease. The War of the Hummingbirds is never ending.

Right now there are five or six of the birds contending over my half-acre yard. There are birds of both sexes and all ages here.


This is the adult female that nested in my yard this year and raised her young here. She loves these blossoms of the flame acanthus (Anisacanthus wrightii) and guards them from other hummers.

One of my hummingbird feeders hangs just a few feet outside my study window near a Texas Star hibiscus, a hummingbird favorite. There's always plenty of activity in this spot.


These last few days, I've noticed the first adult male Ruby-throats that I had seen since earlier in the summer.


As this one hovered by the feeder, his gorget caught the sun, making his throat appear to be on fire.


Then he settled down to feed and the fire went out.


As he moved around to the other side of the feeder, away from the sun, he almost looked like another bird altogether. Black-chinned Hummingbirds and Ruby-throats can sometimes be hard to distinguish because they are so closely related. They can easily be mistaken for each other but this one is definitely a Ruby-throat.


Although the adult male makes a visual impact, this guy is the one who is really the boss of the feeder. He is a juvenile male and this is his favorite perch in the hibiscus, from which he guards his larder.


As he sits on his perch, his head is constantly swiveling, and each time it moves, you can see a different patch of ruby at his throat.


Always alert!


Casting a wary eye skyward.


He looks like he's wearing a ruby locket.


He may look like he's singing, but actually he's panting. All that constant vigilance and chasing of his rivals is hot work!

I hope that you are able to take some time to observe these little birds as they pass through your area. They are amazing creatures and watching them is wonderful and free entertainment.

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