Photo: Communal meal

Friday, December 16, 2016

Photo by Chris Larsen

Chris Larsen got this shot through her garden window in Lake Forest Park on Wednesday.

Comments from Christine Southwick:

It looks like these were females and some first year males.

Usually we don't see this group-thing happen in our area, but it is not unusual in migrating pathways. I have seen this happen in several times, when all the hummers are more interested in replenishing their energy than defending a food source.

Here in WA I have seen this type of grouping:
  • in the San Juan islands during migration both going and coming back up at Mt Adams,
  • east of the mountains where there are only a few feeders,
  • and down in hummer-magnet areas (like Chiricahua Mountains, Ariz) where feeders are put out in multiple.

So, short answer: Having this many hummingbirds on a feeder at one time is not, in itself, that unusual, just not something that we usually see here. Here we usually have more feeders than hummers, so a male can keep himself well-fed, with energy left over to defend that food source.

So maybe some of the local feeders were frozen, and this one was the only functional and full one, making it necessary to use,  without wasting the energy to defend.

(Note: Anna Hummingbirds use what is called "tapline feeding", meaning that they have a set route of feeders that they visit daily. You can almost set your watch by the time(s) that an individual hummer feeds/returns at your feeder. When feeders are not kept up, hummers will feed longer at the ones that are still liquid and clean.)

Some people forget to keep their feeders full during the winter time, when these little bundles of energy need them the most.

Hanging the feeder under the eves close by a light will keep them liquid.
  • A full feeder will stay liquid down to about 28 degrees F.
  • A hand-warmer taped to the bottom of the feeder will work, but then you have to remember to change out the hand-warmer.
  • NON-led lights wrapped around the feeder will do the trick.

There is also a model of heated hummingbird feeder made in Oregon and sold via the internet. I just started using mine about two weeks ago, and now that the hummers have gotten used to the different model, they are using it, but usually only one at a time. That means their local tapline is still has plenty of liquid feeders.


jno62 December 16, 2016 at 2:36 PM  

Great shot. Thanks for sharing. Good tips too Christine!

Anonymous,  December 16, 2016 at 3:35 PM  

Thank you for this explanation. I started keeping feeders around my house a couple years ago. The birds that visit seem to always have the stamina to drive interlopers away!

K J December 17, 2016 at 10:52 PM  

Great picture. Good to know they can share if the conditions are so.

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