Angry Birds

Allen's Hummingbird Perched

They’re small, graceful, marvels of engineering. They’re also altogether evil. O.K. that last part is a bit of an overstatement but, really, who knew these delightful little creatures were so vicious?

Every spring hoards of hummingbirds descend on U.C. Santa Cruz to harvest nectar from its Arboretum’s blooming buds. We followed them there entirely unprepared for what we’d find. Prior to this excursion we had only encountered solitary birds at artificial feeders, and even then, only rarely. To say that we knew little of them or their ways really gives us more credit than we deserve.

Perhaps some advance research might have at least saved us the embarrassment of nearly diving under a bush to avoid the blindside approach of a bird weighing-in at a whopping three grams. In our defense, the little bastard sounded like an entire hive of swarming hornets.

Allen's Hummingbird Perched Profile

Allen’s hummingbird

We panicked needlessly. This little guy never meant us any harm, but other birds in the area weren’t so lucky. Allen’s Hummingbirds, we now know, are fiercely territorial and will drive off competing males or other species who venture too close. They’ve even been known to attack, and best, far larger predatory birds such as hawks.

True to type, this one spent the afternoon lording over his domain from on high; leaving his perch only to buzz the occasional trespasser.

Anna's Hummingbird Feeding

Anna’s hummingbird

Notwithstanding their ill temper, we found them endlessly fascinating. We watched as they zipped forward and backward (the only bird capable of doing so), up and down, with amazing speed and precision on little wings beating as often as 100 times per second. All in a constant search for nectar and insects, which they consume in daily quantities exceeding their bodyweight. Feeding as often as 14 times per hour, hummingbirds run a continuous race against starvation due to their high metabolism. 

The most amazing aspect of these amazing little creatures, though, is their capacity to flash brilliant iridescence. The Allens flash a bright orange around their throats.

But they’re not nearly the most showy. That title goes to Anna hummingbirds who flash blindingly bright fuchsia. Even on a cloudy day these birds blazed like emergency beacons.

Turning their entire visage into, well . . .

 Angry Hummingbird

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16 Comments on “Angry Birds”

  1. heavenhappens May 27, 2013 at 8:14 am #

    These photos are totally amazing, I have never seen hummingbirds so I am thrilled to read your post. Thank you for this wonderful blog, it brings such joy to all readers I am sure. How on earth did you get the photos to move like that?


    • Brian May 27, 2013 at 2:50 pm #

      I created a GIF file from two images. It works basically like a slide show cycling through the two images.


  2. Angela May 27, 2013 at 8:33 am #

    I love the title of your post I never knew hummingbirds could be so vicious! Hopefully Angry Birds will add them to the game!


    • Brian May 27, 2013 at 2:52 pm #

      I don’t know what birds the game is modeled after but when I saw that bright head and fierce eyes I thought immediately of the game’s title bird.


  3. Quirky Little Planet May 27, 2013 at 8:49 am #

    Beautiful photos!


  4. Sydney Fong May 27, 2013 at 8:57 am #

    I thought only one type of humming bird until you share with us!
    Thanks for the sharing, they are lovely! 🙂


  5. digger666 May 27, 2013 at 9:25 am #

    Reblogged this on digger666 and commented:
    Growing up in Milwaukee, hummingbirds were no more than a rumour, so it was with glee and excitement I encountered some for the first time while spending the last half of 2003 in Albuquerque. That summer the partner of a cousin of mine was putting the finishing touches on a new house he was building in the hills about 40 odd miles southeast of town. On one occasion, while helping him with painting, I recall a hummingbird drifting in through the front door, hover briefly in the sitting room and drift out the garden door. Pure magic.


  6. Animalcouriers May 27, 2013 at 10:03 am #

    How wonderful to hear more about these beautiful birds – had no idea they were so territorial. Your photographs are simply stunning!


  7. Gunta May 27, 2013 at 2:57 pm #

    We used to get a migration of hummers every spring that had me filling a gallon’s worth of various feeders daily. If I remember right that was the Annas – incredibly feisty, while our year round residents (the Rufous?) were a lot more sedate and not nearly as numerous. Oh but they were such fun to watch! You do get used to that buzz sound after awhile… 😀


    • Brian May 27, 2013 at 3:02 pm #

      Once we figured out we weren’t being strafed by small aircraft, we were cool. But for a minute there . . . LOL


  8. Ilene (BinkyBecky) May 28, 2013 at 8:57 am #

    I had no idea about the fierce teritorialism of hummingbirds. Thanks for the new information and stunning photos!


  9. LJ Innes May 28, 2013 at 9:42 am #

    Awesome shots – I’m a total bird lover. Thanks for liking my lake photo too. I love the name of your blog and I think it’s a great idea – why not do it if you can? I have grown to love travelling and hope to do more soon, in the meantime, I’ll follow you guys around the globe through your blog. 🙂 Can’t wait to see more!


    • Brian May 28, 2013 at 1:01 pm #

      Thanks and welcome aboard.


  10. cakesbykat May 31, 2013 at 12:22 pm #

    Great shots! Very hard to capture a hummingbird, but you’ve made it look so easy. I’ve seen what looks most like the Anna version in my area. I hope some day to see a baby hummingbird!


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