Are There “Hunger Games” at Your Feeder?

I was recently talking to my neighbor and she told me that her hummingbird feeder had to come down because she was tired of the birds fighting over it. What? I thought that was just friendly hummingbird roughhousing! Apparently, this really is aggressive, “Get off my lawn!” type behavior. According to a recent Audubon article, Who Wins The Feeder War?, the hummingbirds need to feed regularly and this behavior has evolved to protect their food source. 

CBC Backyard – Ruby-throated Hummingbird – Charles Moore

This article has put watching my seed feeders in a whole new perspective. With data gathered from Project FeederWatch, a Cornell Lab researcher has found a “Hunger Games” type feeding hierarchy at the feeders. If you watch, you will notice the Chickadee waits for the larger Titmouse to leave the feeder. However, body size isn’t always the determining factor. The article shows some interesting matchups that we would definitely see here. For instance, the noticeably smaller Downy Woodpecker ranks higher because of his larger bill as compared to the Pileated Woodpecker. There’s no arguing with a larger weapon!

With so many birds on Seabrook Island, you should check out joining Project FeederWatch to add your stats to their research and witness the “Hunger Games” in your backyard.

European Starlings, Blue Jays, and Red-bellied Woodpecker. Photo: Carolyn Lehrke/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

 Submitted by: Joleen Ardaiolo