Hummingbird and Hawk Connection

A mother hummingbird in Arizona incubates her eggs under the indirect protection of her neighborhood hawk. (Photo: Harold F. Greeney, Yanayacu

Health Editor’s Note:  This article informs of the hummingbirds that live in Arizona, which are a different group than live here in western Michigan.  Basically we have the ruby-throated variety here. I put out my hummingbird feeders in early May when it can be still chilly here. After issues with squirrels draining the feeders when their unlimited sun flower supply was cut off by the Duff invention of the squirrel proof bird feeder, the feeders were moved to the area over the door, leading to the living room from the the high level deck. The feeders and thus the hummingbirds are in excellent view of cats, humans, and dogs through the glass door and the very large adjacent window at the end of the living room. 

What has been observed is that not all hummingbird feeders are the same nor acceptable, even when they were being used in the squirrel accessible location and were being visiting in the unrelenting style of the hummingbird. Sitting out in the pear tree, evergreens, or the spice viburnum tree they wait for their chance at a feeder and the more important chance to dive bomb others who have the unmitigated audacity to be using the feeders.  

The relocation of the feeders has created an issue of “the old feeders not being good enough” so more were brought in and tried. Always looking for a mark down that has those perches that they like to use. They have settled on three at present, which has pleasantly surprised me. When they only liked the one, I was on the ladder, sometimes twice a day, for refills.  

My observation is that hummers spend all their energy and time on keeping their kin or neighbors away from the feeders.  Sometimes there will be several eating quietly together, but that is usually not the case. I have not seen an adult male since these feeders were moved to the deck. I see what I believe to be juveniles and females.  Maybe the guys have left early to check on places to eat when the rest join him for the cold weather.  

I would say that they look like they are in a feeding frenzy to stock up for colder weather and for the trip they take to get to their winter homes. Or more likely, my neighbors, if they were maintaining hummingbird feeders, have stopped and word has gotten around that there is still a free meal at the Duff’s.  Today, it is in the 60s here and I am getting a bit concerned that they are not showing signs of leaving.  I will see as many as six individuals at one time and since they look a great deal alike, it is hard to tell if these are all repeaters or new ones. They still have the one feeder that they “love” and that one empties quickly, with me on the ladder refilling, but the other two (one has the capacity for three helpings, yea!) so that at least keeps some food up there for them. When the preferred feeder gets empty, there is actual hovering near the window like the little animal helicopters they are, while staring at me, to let me know.  I do see them on the butterfly bushes, hibiscus tree, and other blooms, but they do know where they can get a fast fill-up and spend their days and evenings filling up. We all enjoy them and are happy to be their “fast food” place of choice……Carol  

Hawks Act as Unwitting Muscle for Hummingbirds

by Rachel Nuwer

Conservationists often point out that, in nature, everything is connected. Remove a certain species from an ecosystem, and other seemingly unrelated ones might suffer.

Such an invisible thread ties together hummingbirds and hawks. In Arizona, black-chinned hummingbirds situate their nests around those of northern goshawks and Cooper’s hawks. While the diminutive hummingbirds escape the notice of the large raptors, the hummingbirds’ key nest predator, the Mexican jay, does not—and hummingbirds seem to recognize this.

As reported today in Science Advances, hummingbirds that are clever enough to cluster their nests under the protective umbrella of a neighborhood hawk enjoy greater survival of fledging chicks compared to those that don’t.

Ornithologists have long noted a peculiar grouping of hummingbird and hawk nests, but until now, no one had elucidated the relationship behind that phenomenon. To solve the mystery, a team of researchers from Ecuador, the U.S. and Canada carefully observed the comings and goings of hummingbirds, hawks and jays in the Chiricahua Mountains over the course of three nesting seasons.

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