The buzz is in the air as our first wave of the broadtail hummingbird migration has finally arrived after their long journey from Mexico and parts south. The term “scouts” is commonly used for this first wave, though the term is more a formality than reality, as it is not as though they arrive to scope out the location then somehow return or send word back to the main migration to let them know the coast is clear. Hummingbirds, being considered “loners” (not gathering or migrating in flocks), simply move at their own pace, and the early birds are just that. Early.
Another fact disproving the “scout” concept is that the birds will often return to the same feeding territory (not actually scouting out new terrain), and sometimes even the exact same tree or bush, as opposed to finding a new home every year. Being a very competitive creature in terms of territory, it can be theorized that the early arrivals simply brave the potentially adverse weather conditions to stake their claim and establish their home before others may arrive and try to muscle in on their traditional feeding grounds. Once the main migration arrives, territorial battles become a near constant event with audible squabbles quite common as they zip around chasing off potential threats to their food sources.
Having fed hundreds of birds per day in the past, I can attest that once the population gets dense enough at a particular location, the birds come to a sort of truce. Squabbles still happen seemingly constantly, but they generally come to an agreement to share. While there are always bullies, especially once the notorious Rufous arrive in July, at peak feeding times in the early morning and dusk there seems to be a bit of peace. I always equated the morning sessions to office gatherings around the breakroom coffee urn, and the evenings to gathering at the bar to talk about the day’s events.
While initially skittish around humans, as most birds are, all it takes is spending time with them around the feeders for them to overcome that fear, and soon enough they will take your presence in stride. Some even take that acquaintance a bit far, as I used to have birds that would fly into my house to yell at me when a feeder was empty. It is commonly seen in countless videos passed around the internet that they can even be “hand fed” with tiny feeders, some brave enough to sit on a palm or perch on a finger to drink.
For years I have called them my coffee companions, as I have always greatly enjoyed sharing that morning space with them, each of us enjoying our own bit of “go-juice” and communing in the sun before going about our daily business. It is a wonderful way to start one’s day, soaking in those first rays of sunshine with a hot cup of coffee and having a tiny, winged jewel stop by and hover, giving you a smile and a bit of chattery morning greeting before zipping off to the garden for a day among the flowers.
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