If there is any presumption that aggressive territoriality is limited to
males, this is not the case in my backyard observatory. I have two feeding
stations mounted on my deck less than a yard apart. One station has two
feeders. While there was an adult male (perhaps more than one) feeding
there early in the season, for the entire summer I have only seen females
(and later perhaps juveniles) and throughout, never more than one bird at a
time at any of the feeders. Just prior to the disappearance of the male
early last spring, I noticed a moment of male-female chasing, perhaps the
end of a conflict.
Yesterday afternoon I witnessed an extraordinary and extended "dog"? fight
between a female and male; the first time I have seen an adult male all
summer. This was an all out swooping diving battle, with each bird taking
momentary breaks to hover over one of the three feeders, never getting more
than or as much as the briefest sip before the other came charging toward
it. Both birds seemed absolutely determined not to let the other even think
this was an available food source. This was fierce fighting which involved
several sharply audible incidents of contact, (painful at least to witness).
After perhaps five to seven minutes of battle, when there seemed to be a
lull and both birds drifted off, conflict resumed the moment one, the
female, came back and tried to assume proprietorship. This second bout
didn't last very long as both birds drifted off, but since then, again, I
have only seen females or juveniles, no adult male.
While I now know that my feeding stations are too close to allow
simultaneous feeding, at least in my neighborhood, I have certainly observed
more than one bird feeding from different ports of the same feeder in other
locations; so it seems there is some variation in behavior.
If hummingbird families stay together by feeding together, I have not
observed it here. What I have observed is two levels of separation: one is
non-simultaneous feeding at the same stations by different individuals, and
the second is complete exclusion of other individuals. In this case I am
only able to make these distinctions about individuals, because of the
complete absence of adult males, (until the forceful exclusion of one
yesterday), and some obvious individual variations among the
Next year I'll see if I can separate the feeders enough to allow
simultaneous feeding, even with at least one very aggressive female present.