Monday, March 21, 2016

Dominant Rufous

Cornell’s AllAboutBirds website lists the male Rufous hummingbird as the “most pugnacious” of all hummingbirds.  They chase away all other hummingbirds, including the larger Anna’s species who normally dominate any feeder they visit.  Dr Desert Flower and I have seen the rust colored Rufous males come in and disrupt other-wise calm feeders as they fan out their tail feathers, buzz, and attack-dive any other bird at the feeder.  They can be real assholes.

When I saw an adolescent Rufous male on the little hummingbird perch outside my office window, it amused me to see a mature male, with full crimson ascot, menacing him.  The adolescent stood his ground, unmoved by the bigger, brighter, more boisterous older male hovering around him.  The ignored older male sat on a branch about a foot above the stationary younger male, and then he got an idea that I’d never seen before.  He flew down, hovered just above and behind the younger male, and then mounted him, for a few seconds before the younger male had “enough” and shrugged off the older male, and flew away.  

I’ve watched male hummingbirds in Arizona swoop up in the air 200 feet above my pool, and then SWOOP Down amazingly fast, as they advertise to available females their strength, maneuverability, and prowess.  This same vertical flight path, supposedly, is how the hummingbirds copulate before they hit the ground.  But seeing the mature male mount the juvenile to shoo him away from the coveted nectar feeders, was the first time I’ve ever seen one hummingbird sexually assault another male.  I’ve seen dogs, and horses, and rabbits do this… but this was the first time I’ve seen a bird do it.

Cornell’s site says that Rufous are only migratory through California, and that they Winter in Mexico, and that they Summer in Canada… but we see them all year around here in North San Diego County.  
6 Hummingbirds, all females and immature males, sharing the feeder in the back yard.

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