Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Shining sunbeams

If you've spent any time watching a hummingbird feeder, you know how aggressive those little birds can be. In my own backyard, I've watched as one or more Anna's hummingbirds tries to monopolize the feeder, forcing other birds to settle for a quick sip before they're chased away.

But nothing prepared me for Ecuador's shining sunbeam, Aglaeactis cupripennis, the most aggressive hummer I've ever seen. Larger than most, it chased away every other species that tried to approach. This got to be a little annoying, from a photographer's perspective – at the end of a full day of shooting, 70% of my photos were of sunbeams, with the rest divided between 4 other species. (Eventually I learned a couple of tricks to increase my chances with the smaller species.)

And when two sunbeams compete for the same feeder or flower, watch out. They don't just try to bluff or intimidate, they actually make contact – chest bumping, hitting with their wings, and grabbing tail feathers in their claws. The sound of their wings as they collided was surprisingly loud, and made me wonder how often a bird is injured in these competitions.

Sometimes both birds would tumble toward the ground, recovering at the last second to fly in opposite directions, only to return for a rematch. It's a wonder any of them was able to feed, but somehow they managed.

To purchase prints or license images for use in your publications or products, just click on the photos above, or choose from thousands of other photos here.

No comments:

Post a Comment