Ask the Bird Lady: Why are the hummingbirds dive-bombing us?

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Hummingbird at feeder
Photo by Jerry Pickard

Question for the Bird Lady:

Jeanne says: I was watering plant containers. We were standing by the red hot pokers, and there was a hummingbird feeding off of it, then another, and then more buzzing around. They really make a noise when they’re flapping their wings. We think there were at least 5 of them. They were all but dive bombing us! I’ve never had that experience before. Wow!

The Bird Lady (Christine Southwick) replies:

Most hummingbirds, are by nature, drawn to red tones. Consider the red to red-orange gorgets (throat coloring) of the male Anna's and Rufus hummingbirds. Lots of hummingbird feeders have parts of the feeder decked out in red (NOTE: red food coloring is NOT required, and there is some research that seems to point to the food coloring having detrimental effects -- in addition, people can't see when to clean the feeder).

Hummingbirds have evolved to be able to remove nectar from tubular flowers, to the point that some flowers totally depend on the long curved bills of some South American hummingbirds. Did you know that only the Western Hemisphere has hummingbirds?

At any rate, the hummingbirds that visit Washington State are more generalists. They prefer tubular flowers like Fuchsias and "Red-hot Pokers" (kniphofia, aka red hot poker, poker plant, torch lily) and phygelius, but will visit dahlias, fruit blossoms and even pansies.

On hot days, they will be drawn to sprinklers, and if you stand really still, with your garden hose on a soft shower, or mist, they will even fly through the water droplets.


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