Besides migrating, it is commonly believed that hummingbirds are territorial.
There does seem to be some evidence supporting this belief.
Such as the fact that they will defend their territory against other hummingbirds, insects, or even larger birds.
However, not all hummingbird species behave this way.
As far as we know, there are at least four different ways that hummingbirds can handle territory.
How Hummingbirds Handle Territory
Hummingbirds’ territoriality appears to depend on their foraging strategy.
It is common knowledge that most hummingbird species feed on nectar.
However, they could also consume small amounts of insects and spiders.
The three foraging strategies are opportunistic, territorial, and training.
In an opportunistic feeder, the hummingbird will visit any flowers it likes without worrying about if another bird has been there before.
In many cases, this is also a solitary feeder.
A territorial feeder, however, will only visit a particular territory, which they will defend against all other organisms.
This type of feeding is more common in hummingbirds that also hunt insects or spiders.
A trainer, however, does not appear to have a specific territory.
Instead, it travels along an area and visits the flowers there sequentially, almost like following a line on the ground.
Hummingbirds in this category may also be solitary or collective feeders (meaning that they will live with other hummingbirds and they will form a line when feeding).
However, not all researchers agree on how these terms should be defined, so there are some cases where researchers disagree on what category certain species belong to.
Consider the hummingbird species that feed both on insects and nectar, such as Anna’s hummingbirds.
The males of this species are very territorial around their nests during the breeding season.
Meanwhile, however, male Anna’s will not defend a territory outside of the nesting season, and they will even feed in groups.
Hummingbirds’ Territorial Factors
In other words, their territoriality is dependent on the time of year.
In contrast, adult male Anna’s during breeding season gain a lot of weight.
This happens while they are defending their territory from intruders, so because the territory has many flowers with nectar it is possible that males gain weight by feeding on nectar instead of hunting for insects.
Meanwhile, during the non-breeding season, male Anna’s do not gain weight because they need to spend much more time searching for food.
This indicates that the males only feed on a diet of nectar when there is a lack of prey in their territory.
This scenario happens after nesting season when all of the male’s prey is exhausted by their nestlings.
The male Black-chinned hummingbird also feeds on both nectar and insects.
They may be territorial during nesting season like most other hummingbirds, but otherwise, they will feed together in groups regardless of sex or age.
Bottom line: Hummingbirds’ territoriality appears to be dependent on their foraging strategy.
Opportunistic feeders show no signs of territorial behavior but trap-lining and territorial hummingbirds can both be solitary or group feeders.
Meanwhile, species that hunt for prey along with nectar only seem to defend their territory when prey availability is low.
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