Short-winged fighter

Rufous Hummingbirds are built like jet fighters with short stubby wings and plenty of attitude.  The Cornell bird lab website calls them “the fiestiest hummingbird in North America”.

This was the perch from which this male defended his clump of flowers.

This was the perch from which this male defended his clump of flowers.

A trio of male Rufous Hummingbirds zipped around me trying to outdo each other is their competition of flowers, but they were so quick, it was really difficult to photograph them.

You can get an idea of just how small they are when you compare their size with that of a standard mesh fence.

You can get an idea of just how small they are when you compare their size (about 3 inches) with that of the holes in a standard mesh fence.

Rufous hummers are very aggressive, and will drive away larger hummingbirds, as well as each other, from a nectar resource (feeder or patch of flowers).  Their short wings make them extremely agile in changing direction quickly, and the fast wing beat frequency propels them amazingly fast through aerial space.

Tail up and wings beating  60 times a second, this little male approaches a set of his defended flowers.

Tail up and wings beating 60 times a second, this little male approaches a set of his defended flowers.

This little male spent 90% of his time defending his flower patch, and less than 10% actually foraging from it.

This little male spent 90% of his time defending his flower patch, and less than 10% actually foraging from it.

With his bright orange iridescent throat, white chest, and metallic green back and shoulders, this male is handsomely decked out.

With his bright orange iridescent throat, brown head and belly, white chest, and metallic green back and shoulders, this male is handsomely decked out.

Rufous hummers are a western US species, but breed as far north as southern Alaska!  Then they undertake a 3900 mile migration to their wintering grounds in southern Mexico, quite a feat for such a small bird!

10 thoughts on “Short-winged fighter

  1. A bird with attitude–I like that. Your shots are amazing, Sue, and really highlight the beauty of this tiny bird. I can only imagine the patience that was necessary to get them, especially the in-flight shots. Wow.

    • If only there had been more sunlight to really show off that gorgeous throat patch. I can’t believe the birds tolerated me standing so close to them while they were trying to defend their little flower patch. If I lived in this neighborhood I would set up a blind and really get close to the action!!

  2. Great shots! There was a rufous hummer at the three feeders we had up and boy did he try to defend his territory. The poor other hummingbirds were such troupers to keep trying to get at the feeders. (Such a mean little bastard he was. Heh.)

  3. Pingback: the least of them all | Back Yard Biology

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