Sunday, July 25, 2010

Bird on Bird

We're on our second big trip of the summer, this time traveling in Northern Minnesota. Our first stop has been Itasca State Park, the place where the headwaters of the Mississippi River are. We are staying in a cool log cabin right up the hill from the lake. Around the lodge and visitors' center there are hummingbird feeders everywhere, but unlike many of these plastic hourglass shaped contraptions that I've seen in the yards and gardens near home, droves of hummingbirds actually congregate at these. I've seen more ruby-throats today than in my whole life combined.

At dinner tonight, we were seated by a window overlooking the lake. The sun was setting, and the sky was a lovely golden, but I couldn't keep my eyes off the drama unfolding at the hummingbird feeder right outside. My panfried walleye grew cold as one thumb-sized bird refused to share the nectar. If another hummer landed while he was eating, this teeny meanie would rear back, poke that lilliputian chest out, and blur his emerald wings at the newcomer. If that display of ill will failed to intimidate, he would fly around the feeder and physically chase the other bird off. Then he would retreat to a branch above the feeder, vigilantly guarding it from any other hummingbirds who might try to get a little nourishment. The tiny terrorist was tirelessly aggressive, sometimes scaring his fellow feeders off with just a mean little look.

I wondered if hummingbirds are naturally so selfish, but then I noticed that right around the corner was another feeder where three, four, five, and even six other birds were able to share a meal without any conflict. Who'da thunk that even hummingbirds have bullies?

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