Is it Hummingbird Play or Aggression?

hummingbird on canna flower

Why Do Hummingbirds Chase Each Other?

I have witnessed an odd behavior, actually almost comical rather than odd, amongst the 18 or so humming birds that frequent my garden feeders.

We have three feeders with six holes each and, initially, the birds were very territorial.

But now we have even seen birds sitting side-by-side and sharing one of the holes.

But the most surprising is when one of the hummingbirds comes up from under a feeding bird, grabs his tail in his slender beak, and pulls him off to free a slot.

This has an alternative action when a bird tries to free a slot by coming from above and touching the feeding bird with his beak.

This typically results in the feeding bird reaching up to grab the intruder by the tail to pull him away.

Any thoughts? Comments?

See Also:

Hummingbird Habits

Hummingbird Facts


Shop For Feeders

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Comments for Is it Hummingbird Play or Aggression?

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Aug 28, 2020
Nectar vs. Flowers on Our Balcony Suggestions?
by: Susan H

We have two females and a male that visit our balcony where the bird feeder is on the outside of the railing.

We just got three plants, including Koala Palm and hummingbird mint and a purple salvia, I think.

Anyhow, the flowers are right on the other side of the railing at the same level. It's been slow going for them to come and try the flowers.

Until we pot them and they are heavy enough to sit outside the railing on the ledge, does anyone have tips on how to get them to enjoy the flowers too?

The male tried them first but females not so often. Do they tend to like the nectar we offer better than the real thing?

Also, fun observation, because the feeder is stationary, they don't have to fly as hard to get a drink where with the flowers that move as they drink/fly, they have to work harder because the flower moves. Fun!


Aug 11, 2020
Male rules ?? Think not!
by: Anonymous

We had 2 females that were jockeying thru our yard with aerobatics every day until early August.

Then a male showed up and decided to hoard all the feeders for himself, as he keeps watch to guard the feeders.

But the females knew what to do. He can only chase one away at a time, thus the other female would swoop in and have a nice long drink until the male came back to the yard.

Then he would chase that female out of the yard, and the second female would fly in and have a long, uninterrupted sip. They played him like a fiddle.

That's a male for ya. Wink wink

Aug 07, 2018
Not play
by: Anonymous

If it's ruby-throats it isn't play. They are territorial.

Although the male does a cool swooping dance for the female during mating time and nest mates tend to tolerate each other, this species is solitary even on their long journeys back and forth for migration.

Jul 26, 2018
Hummers at it again
by: Regina Middleburg, FL

I find enjoyment on my days off sitting on my back porch and watching these fun little birds.

I only have three feeders at present and attract probably 6-8 hummers so far. There might be more if the current ones wouldn't chase them away.

Whether they were playing or being aggressive I had one last week fly by and very quickly grazed my lip and poked a small hole in it.

All is good though... I just love em ❤️

Sep 01, 2016
Frequent Chasing
by: Arnie

Usually in the later part of August for the past several years I have had 2 females visit my feeder.

This year if one shows up then soon a 2nd one shows up and one chases the other one. They keep circling and returning all day.

I frequently change the sugar mixture so it is fresh. They are a joy to watch.

Jul 29, 2014
Hummngbird Play
by: Anonymous

It is delightful when the babies start to visit our feeders. They are so tiny and sweet.

Now they are a bit older and playing all the time. These youngster are definitely playing. They chase clearly play hid and seek.

I've watched them hide in a nook in the bushes while another scans up and down the tree looking. Once spotted they chase and chatter then come back and do it all over again.

There's one group of 3 little ones that stay together and play non-stop. They make a lot of noise too. The adults are quiet and stick to one feeder.

Sep 02, 2013
Hummers at Play
by: Anonymous

We have 3 female rufous who have been around since they were immature s. They chase each other away from the feeders -- definitely play - chasing each other and zipping up into the sky circling each other and chirping.

Eventually they take turns or go together to one of the feeders. Such a joy.

They were here this morning playing and now seem to be gone but were around for more than a month -- hope they return next year!

Sep 21, 2011
Playful Hummers
by: Retired Fire Chief

It is late September here in central Illinois and the males have gone south. But our females are having a ball. Yes I think they are playing.

They eat together then will chase each other and then they fly up and it looks as if they are dancing around each other.

My wife and I will miss these delightful creatures of God until next year. Next year we are putting out two more feeders. More feeders more hummers.

Sep 03, 2011
by: Anonymous

This is very interesting. I wish I knew what kind of hummingbirds you have. I have ruby throated hummingbirds.

It is only during mating and when the nest mates are together that I see the kind of behavior you are mentioning.

I would think if it is early in the season they interact, it would be mating related and if it is later, like August it is nest mates.

I have a male and female that hang out together and even gang up on other hummers.

Aug 03, 2011
Playing I think!
by: Marie

Interesting that you mention "play"
I have about 5 or more with several feeders in my yard and I observe them on a daily basis. I feel that they are playing.

They chirp to each other and they chase each other, sometimes playing hid and seek. They also follow each other. It sure is interesting. Marie

Aug 31, 2008
Breakfast Anyone?
by: Donna

It's nice to find others who take as much delight in these wonderful little creatures as my husband and I do.

We join them on our deck every morning for coffee and breakfast. They've come to know there's no reason to fear us or our two cocker spaniels.

The ones we've seen are all brown. Not knowing a lot about them (but learning) I thought they must all be females. Any help on this.

They seem to love our big oak trees. Next year the flower garden and planter boxes will be planted with them very much in mind.

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