Invaders in Birdland

By , May 11, 2013

A day or two ago, the hummingbird situation took an odd turn: a pair of warblers began competing with the hummingbirds for the feeders.

We are used to handling feeder invaders each summer. We buy the feeders with bee guards to prevent the local yellowjackets from sipping the nectar. We had a squirrel last year that used to sneak sips from one of the feeders, until he became raven food. Ants occasionally work their way to a feeder, and have to be discouraged.

But we’d never seen anything like this before.

The as-yet unidentified warbler, raiding the hummingbird feeder (Photo: Mark Zeiger).

The as-yet unidentified warbler, raiding the hummingbird feeder (Photo: Mark Zeiger).

A song bird, which I have not been able to positively identify more precisely than some sort of warbler, suddenly began hovering underneath the feeder we hung on the spruce tree in the dooryard. It appeared to be picking something off of the underside of the feeder. I assumed bugs, but could find none; instead, I saw droplets left over from a spill. Soon, it abandoned the underside for the nectar ports in the feeder. This is our old feeder (as predicted, Michelle found it soon after she returned home) which no longer has perches on it. The hummingbirds hover over the holes to drink. This bird struggled to keep a purchase on the sloped plastic surface while it sipped from the holes.

Another bird just like it soon joined in. They sipped from the feeder, and also seemed to bite the sap droplets from the moose-browsed birch suckers at the base of the tree next to the spruce. Again, I checked for bugs there, but found none.

This unusual competitioin for the hummingbird nectar upped the entertainment value of the dooryard considerably. The hummingbirds, usually comletely engrossed in keeping each other away from the feeders, now faced a new challenge. At times they ignored the songbirds to the point that often a hummingbird fed from one hole while a warbler fed from another. At other times, they attacked the song birds in an effort to drive them off the feeder.

I wondered if the songbirds didn’t simply need water. I put a pan of water out on the rock at the base of the trees. They ignored it. Later, I filled it with extra hummingbird nectar. They ignored that too. Instead, they began trying to get nectar from the feeeder next to the window.

Everytime the action grew heated, I tried to get some good photos. Unfortunately, what you see is the best of them.

This situation has continued for an hour or two each day. We’re not concerned for the hummingbirds; we now have three feeders around the cabin, and in the evenings we’ve counted up to 20 hummingbirds gathered around them at one time. I would like to know what has made these warblers seek out the sweet tasting nectar and sap, though.

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