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Alphie's back! The new aggressor
Last Post 08/03/2020 09:39 PM by 79 pmooney. 3 Replies.
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07/25/2020 06:27 PM
Alphie, the neighborhood boss, the Type A hummingbird.

I didn't feed my hummers for a year. Alphie, the original, was no longer. I fed him for something like 8 years making him an old bird, Stopped coming two years ago. A new make moved in until I stopped feeding them but he was young and hadn't learned the ropes of the aggressor yet. (The original was a terror to all the other hummers. He would hang out 50' in the air where he could see both front feeders and almost see the rear feeder and would dive bomb anyone thinking about a drink. Completely unafraid of me. I've touched him just going to change the feeder and not noticing him. He'd buzz past inches from my ear. Surprise! I miss him.)

Monday I set out the feeders. Saw them Wednesday. Now they're starting to live up to their theme song, Albert Collins; "I Ain't Drunk, I"m Just Drinkin'". Since Tuesday, they've consumed several hummer body weights worth. Today I've been watching the male and female Annas feeding, Well, last stop was the female. Dive bombed and chased off by the male, the new Alphie. Just like the old days. I still don't understand how keeping the females underfeed helps the Alpha males. Those Alphas eat their way to twice the weight (I'm guessing but they are clearly much bigger) of the females. Spend all day at the buffet and pull out the AR-15 any time anyone else even thinks about getting in line to buy a small bag of fries. (And that someone else is usually that cute chick he wants kids by. Weird dynamic.)

The more I know about hummers, the more I know they are not very nice birds! Still I love 'em. Flight has always fascinated me. I was "designing" airplanes when I was 10. Sailed - 2 dimensional, 2 fluid flight. Love watching seagulls (no bird loves flying for fun more), the great gliders, the hawks, eagles, the offshore shearwaters and fulmars. Haven't yet seen the albatross. The acrobatic birds- swifts and swallows, Then there's the hummers doing things no other vertebrate can, with heart, lungs and metabolism that make Eddy at his best look like a 90 yo.

A few years ago I was on a ride when I passed a dead Anna. Stopped, picked it u and held it to the light. A perfect, brilliant green and deep purple male. Not one feather ruffled. Maybe as long as the width of my palm. Weighed, quite literally, nothing. I've heard 3 grams. 1 penny. Yeah. Not much under al l that fluff. (And they go to twice size in winter!)

I look forward to seeing these guys (gals) this winter. The original Alphie used to scold me if I was late with warm, unfrozen sugar water. I"m putting my money on getting scolded January, 2023. Speculation. I don't know this new guy and we have no relationship yet,



07/30/2020 02:26 PM

About 25 years ago I was having my house built. It's a log house and one day I was checking out progress (as I did every day). The walls were all up, the roof was on and subfloors were in. No windows or doors yet. I went inside and found a hummingbird on the floor, clearly exhausted but still alive. It must have flown in and couldn't find an exit and ran out of gas. I very carefully got it into the palm of my hand and walked outside, off the porch and onto the newly developing law when it suddenly perked up and zoomed out of my hand in search of food.

Very cool moment. And yes, it was like holding a glimmering green feather with a rapid heart beat.


07/30/2020 03:05 PM
It seems that I now have two Annas. male and female. I might have seen a Rufus but not sure. (I see them backlit from in the house. Cannot see the colors and flash. The Rufus is a little smaller and much less colorful, but chunkier so from in front it isn't always easy to tell. Annas stay year 'round if there is food. Otherwise they go 80 miles to the warmer (in winter) coast. Rufuses (Rufi?) go south in the fall. Annas completely dominate over the Rufus. The alpha Anna runs the 'hood. The female Rufus is so far down the pecking order I have rarely seen her.

That Albert Collins bit? OMG. I put out 3 test tube feeders with 8oz of 4:1 water to sugar by volume Saturday (so sweet I have to bring the water close to a boil to dissolve the sugar). Yesterday I changed the feeders, One was empty, the other two 1/4 left. That's 19 grams or well over 1/2 ounce per hummer per day! Me drinking 400 waterbottles!

thinline - cool story. Thanks. I hope to hold a live one someday but only if, like you, I am helping it. (I've trapped two regular birds in my house with paper bags over the years and reintroduced them to their outdoors.)

And unrelated but really cool - got to be introduced to a tame Peregrine falcon on his trainer's arm while standing right in front of them. He had a crippled foot since birth. There's been a family of returning Peregrines under Portland's interstate bridge forever. Every year volunteers climbed out the steel structure to check on the new ones. They knew right away this one was probably doomed as a wild bird so he's spent his life as an adoptee. He stood about 12" tall. Not big, but what a gorgeous and noble creature! Drop dead beautiful! Now I know why Peregrines are on so many coats of arms, etc.

Birds - the living dinosaurs, the dinosaurs that figured a way of living that has worked with very few changes for what, 100 million years? And what variety among them!


08/03/2020 09:39 PM
I just learned a lot about another branch of the family of flying dinosaurs. Swifts. Common in Portland. Show up every July for the Blues Festival and all the insects it attracts. I always thought of them as like swallows but less elegant. Liked that they are the high performance combat aircraft of the aviarians.

The browser home page had an article on the swifts of England. OMG. Those birds never land except to lay eggs and raise young. They even mate on the fly. When that youngster takes his first flight, he won't land again for three years! They sleep at 6000'. From there, they use sight, the sun and stars, the earth's magnetic field (which they recaiibrate with celestial regularly!) and observe the clouds for weather patterns and storms. The birds don't do this individually but as groups of hundreds, thousands. Still those little birds mastered a long time ago advanced sciences.

You'd think they would use their flying ability to avoid storms. No, they look for them because they know that storms uproot insects and that there is a feast in their wake.

Here in Portland, I think the swifts we see are Vaux swifts. In any case, those Vaux congregate every September above a particular elementary school, then fly down the chimney to roost for the night. Thousands. Hundreds of Portlanders show up to watch the show.

All that I've read today has me wondering - do those swifts that have no issue flying through the Blues Festival crowd then zoom up 6000' to snooze? Or do they find a vertical surface to cling to. I"d love tho think they are snooze on the fly; that they change habits just to migrate and raise young.

The more I read about the very ordinary birds, the more I am amazed by them. (Speaking of ordinary, not!, - swifts share heritage with hummingbirds and the unique ability to rotate their wings. They seemingly use this ability differently from hummingbirds - I've never seen a swift stand still in the air; in fact I'm not sure I've ever seen one go slow - but that might account for some of their incredible acrobatics.) The really ordinary chickadees that I grew up with and loved - they lose a large percentage of brain mass every year and over the summer, grow new. They store their seed locations in this new brain. Recall: roughly 90%! Even with snow. (By contrast - squirrels. 10% They re-forested the NE after the glaciers. With no assistance from the chickadees.)

Which brings me to another thought. I should contact the local Audubon and ask if there is a way to refit modernish eaves to be habitable for them. Having a few families every summer would be fun. Plus, they are environmentally correct insecticides.

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