Until I started regularly putting out and tending a seasonal hummingbird feeder several years ago, I had no idea that these amazing little birds squeak. That’s right, they emit a sort of happy, squeaking sound at the feeder. Not all the time, but once in awhile. Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be an educational, ornithologically correct post, as I doubt you want to read that, and also I don’t really feel like looking up facts.
The squeaky noise sounds like their version of, “OH-MY-GOD-THIS-IS-SO-GOOD, HAPPY, HAPPY, MORE, MORE.” That’s pretty much what I too say about my food in human-speak. It’s really cute. Not what I say, what the birds
say squeak. The source of their pleasure is straight, unadulterated sugar water – no wonder they fly around all hyped up. Who else gets that?! (Now that I think about it, if I looked into the matter, I’d probably find a sugar water controversy afoot somewhere online not unlike the low-key debate over regular bird feeding. But I’m not going to look.) Not only do they get sugar water, the concoction is supposed to be made extra strong at the beginning of the season in order to hook attract them. Although once they’ve found a open buffet, they’ll return in following years to the same location. Now that’s a GPS, baby.
Unfortunately, hummingbirds are not the only ones interested in sugar water. So besotted are ants with the sweet liquid, that a bunch of ’em will go right through the feeding ports into the cylinder. Not only are appetite-ruining ants swarming the outside, but dearly departed comrades (“We told them to just take one drink and step aside, but nooooo, they didn’t listen”) are floating inside. The hummingbirds are, reasonably, put off by this spectacle on their meal and shy away, which is probably just as well because I worry about them getting ants lodged in their tiny throats and choking. If birds choke. I tried various homemade foils, which didn’t work, so I caved and bought a rather ingenious ant moat (that’s not what the manufacturer calls it, but that’s what it is) that sits above the feeder and prevents the ant coalition from reaching it. Ants. Don’t. Swim.
Here’s the feeder and ant moat set-up:
I don’t know why it has all those ports; I believe I saw two birds feeding nicely together at the same time precisely once (and that was probably only because the male wanted some hot lady hummingbird action that night). Far and away what do the magic birds do most of the time? Fight. Seems my lovely little friends are very territorial – doesn’t matter how much liquid chow is available – ain’t nobody else gonna have it. Mine, mine, mine. One bird, who apparently has had enough or isn’t hungry at the moment, will sometimes sit quietly in a nearby tree or shrub and wait for a competitor to approach the feeder and then fly in, all “I GOT YOU” and chase it off. “So what if I’m not playing with it right now. Any minute, I might want it.”
Sometimes I feel like I should be able to teach them to share, as if I could convince the mini-birds of the silliness in their greedy ways. Near the end of the season, with hundreds if not thousands of miles of flight ahead of them, when you’d think they’d want to be carb-loading, their fighting seems especially ill-advised. By then, though, I can only offer a head-shaking, wry word: “You’re burning daylight, little bird. When you fall out of the sky from exhaustion somewhere over Texas, whose fault will that be?”