[Tweeters] Unusual Anna's Hummingbird Feeding Behavior

Pterodroma pterodroma at aol.com
Wed Nov 24 21:55:57 PST 2021

Hmm, fascinating and a most timely posting indeed, thanks!   I am currently experiencing the exact same phenomena.  Swarming Anna's Hummingbirds, literally swarms!   Easily 10-20, maybe up to 30 or more at one time swarming like bees around just one feeder.  I have been feeding the usual half dozen or so Anna's year round on this property in Eastgate (Bellevue) for nearly 30 years and have never seen anything like this and what's going on right now.  What's changed?  The explosion began in mid summer and I figured once all the Rufous had left for the season, the activity would probably slow down and return to "normal."  Well, that hasn't happened, just the opposite.  No Rufous now of course but more Anna's now than I have ever seen in one place or on one feeder before.   I maintain 5 feeders scattered about the property, 2 one-cuppers, 1 two-cupper, one small one (half pint or so), and one big one that holds 3-1/2 cups when filled to the brim.  It's that latter one, the big one, is where the really high concentrated activity is.  The feeder is located on the roof above the carport/garage attached to under the upper-level north side eave in front of an upper corner of the front picture window which allows constant unobstructed monitoring and endless entertainment from the comfort of my recliner while watching TV or just lounging or just wandering through the living room.   Since the feeder is on the roof above the carport and garage, it means I have to haul out the step ladder and climb up there to refill it.  It's not just once in a while like it used to be for years and years, it's every day now, ...every single day!   Keeping close tabs on the weather radar, I try to coordinate that activity to work around imminent and/or longer term rain events.  Come frosty mornings or snow events later in the season, this exercise could become a bit more adventuresome and challenging if I choose to dare fate.  Fortunately from the sturdy step ladder, and the roof being nearly flat, access is reasonably easy and I like to think, safe.
Like Barbara observed, all these hummingbirds get along very very well.  That's never happened in the past.  The big feeder has six ports and a continuous perch around the perimeter.  Or rather about 2/3 of a continuous perch since over the years, parts of it have broken off.  But no matter.  If birds can't perch, they can just hover or simply cling for dear life to any part they can get hold of.  Not infrequently, I see 2 and 3 birds side by side at one port and simply just take turns with no fuss whatsoever.  None seem to act territorial, there's no squabbling, no nothing other than acting with great sense of urgency, they just get along perfectly and swarm swarm swarm like bees off and on all day long.  By about sunset, it all stops stone dead.  That is in fact a good time to get up there to refill the feeder, with still just a wee bit of daylight to get up on the roof, take down the feeder, take it inside and rinse it out, refill, and back to the roof for a second time to remount it.  The whole routine takes about 20 minutes.  One full to the brim (3-12 cups) typically perfectly last one whole day with the current seasonal daylight.   Occasionally when the feeder does run empty during daytime feeding frenzies, I've found that doing what needs to be done doesn't seem to disrupt things much if at all.  When I return a few minutes later with the refilled feeder, these hummingbirds often don't even give me a chance to get the feeder back up and secured in place before 2-3 will be on it already while others swarm about my head.  It's totally insane but I love it!  This situation I can only liken to some fondest personal memories and visions from an unforgettable visit and stay at the infamous hummingbird feeders at the Tandayapa Eco-Lodge in Ecuador 15 years or so ago San Jorge de Tandayapa Eco-Lodge & Hummingbird Sanctuary (Cloud Forest) - Quito Ecuador (eco-lodgesanjorge.com).  There of course, the wildly exotic species diversity was significant and individuals of any one species in even greater numbers, even more feeders and larger ones but still requiring refilling several times a day with individuals (e.g. Booted Racket-taileds, Long-tailed Silphs, and many others) attaching themselves while the refilled feeders were in hand transport simply across the deck by staff there.  Utterly amazing and amusing!  Such concentrated feeding and hummingbird concentrations in such places as the Ecuadorian tropical cloud forests did give me some pause however, wondering how such activity might be creating an unnatural dependence on artificial feeding and otherwise affecting or altering their natural feeding behavior.  The same wonderment could be said and applied for my current high concentration of Anna's and/or to all of us who host and feed hummingbirds on a seasonal or regular basis.  I would certainly hope that we as stewards of the environment aren't contributing to a situation where feeder dependence becomes a detriment to hummingbird survival in nature if feeders weren't available.  That all said, I sense these hummingbirds are doing just fine.  With each passing year, CBC data etc seems to suggest that the numbers of Anna's Hummingbirds in our region continue to swell with much if not all of that attributed to our joyful propensity for feeding.
As for the amount of sugar water nectar consumed per month/year, I haven't quite calculated that out yet.  It's certainly far more than anything I've experienced before.  What I do know is that I am going through 16 to 20 pounds of pure cane granulated sugar per month!  New 4:1 batches need to be made up every single day and I usually maintain in stockpile about 6 cups worth refrigerated and quickly available as needed.  Tip: In this quantity, buy your sugar at your neighborhood Walmart Market and save about $2 per 4-lb bag.  The hummingbirds obviously don't care, sugar is sugar.  I do prefer the C&H milk carton-like half gallon containers for the ease of handling, so I pay the bigger bucks to buy a couple of those on occasion, then simply refill those containers with the bags from Walmart as needed until they wear out and need to be replaced again.
So what's it all mean, all these Anna's Hummingbirds all getting along like best of friends and where hummingbird life now is all about sharing?  Even during the season when territoriality is to be expected and the usual norm, even then it wasn't really which I was thinking quite strange as far back as six-eight months ago. Maybe there is there some epic natural or unnatural disaster in our near future that only the Anna's Hummingbirds seem to sense or know about?  If so, well, good luck all.  It's been fun.
Richard RowlettBellevue, WA

From: BARBARA WHEELER <barbarawheelerphotography...>

We have fed Anna's hummingbirds year round for 35 years, from the north sound to the south sound. This fall, their behavior is extraordinarily different.

Anna's are so territorial, it's only been an occasional thing to see more than one sit on a feeder at a time. However, this year, we've had to hang up two additional feeders (three within a few feet of each other) because of all of the activity. We've not only had four on the feeder at one time, we've had several occasions where two sat on the same flower and shared and once had six on a feeder with four flowers.

We first thought they must be all juveniles. However, we have females, juveniles and adult males all feeding together on the feeders. At times, we've had three full feeders and more birds in the air. We've never seen anything like this outside of Arizona.

We're going through a gallon of (homemade) hummingbird nectar a week, an unprecedented amount!

I wish I knew what I was doing right so I could keep on doing it!

Is anyone else seeing this unusual (for Anna's) behavior?
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://mailman11.u.washington.edu/pipermail/tweeters/attachments/20211125/dc6cf73e/attachment.html>

More information about the Tweeters mailing list