Three feeders hang on hooks off our back porch. Each a different size and shape, holding roughly the same quantity of super-sweet red syrup.
You'd think forty-eight ounces of nectar would be more than enough for a gaggle of hummingbirds. After all, the buzzing little creatures are so tiny. Any smaller and they would be more a subject of concern for entomologists than for ornithologists.
I've always felt fairly sorry for hummingbirds, being so small. Despite their speed and precision maneuvering, it must be tough going through life knowing there are few animals and reptiles that would not consider you a snack to be swallowed whole, saving the long pointy beak to use for a toothpick when finished.
Were I in the hummingbird's position, I might be inclined to behave in a head-down, mind-my-own-business kind of way, hoping to avoid interaction with anything possessing a bite radius wider than my body. Turns out quite the opposite is true. Not only are hummingbirds highly inquisitive fellows, they are fiercely territorial. Take, for instance, little Benito.
More often than not, however, Benito is perched atop one of the metal hooks holding the hummingbird feeders, puffing out his chest to declare his totalitarian manifesto to the world, or at least to that one rebellious bird from the wooded lot next door who persistently attempts to chip away at the rigid structure of Benito's authority.
If past years offer any indication of what to expect, before too long Benito will be fighting a losing battle. The single rebel from next door will be joined by two, possibly more, partisan freedom fighters. They will take it in turns to lead Benito away from the back porch so the others can raid the feeders during the chase. By the time he returns, weary and worn from yet another fruitless dog fight, his heart rate racing to over 1,300 beats per minute, yet another quarter ounce of precious nectar will have vanished from his supply.
It would be nice if little Benito would let down his guard and broaden his world view. Just think how much more pleasant life would be for all of them if, instead of ruling over the feeders with a heavy wing and unsuccessfully trying to keep them only for himself, he opened his borders and shared the wealth.
Imagine a seventeen-seat counterculture nectar bar full of feathery grooviness and free-form avian poetry readings with a hippie hummingbird manifesto posted for all to see: "Love is all you need!"
And maybe a little nectar, too.
© 2011 Mark Feggeler