Sunday, July 25, 2010

Seating for Five

We have a hummingbird feeder hanging from the eave of our covered porch. It is red, of course, since that is the color supposed to draw hummingbirds. At its base, it is wide, with five yellow sunflowers, and at the center of each is the hole from which the birds can draw out the sugar water.

We have a great deal of hummingbird activity. They are always zooming by, zipping through the air, often just over our heads. What is highly amusing, though, is that only one is ever feeding at a time. A single hummingbird always ferociously guards the feeder, chasing away any other interlopers. So it is a game of tag, of seek and chase. One approaches, then the one at the feeder dives after, and they both soar away, one in mad pursuit of the other.

Sabrina tells me that at her last house, feeling sorry for one hummingbird who always was chased away, she hung a second feeder up, about 15 feet away. Then the dominant bird simply guarded both, hovering in the air at center point, flitting back and forth to make sure no one could get to either feeder on her watch.

So tell me - why does the hummingbird feeder have seating for five? Are there hummingbirds somewhere in the world who are better at sharing their food, allowing company to sit down at the dinner table? Do some other hummingbirds have an altruistic streak, that seems to be lacking in the ones in Alexander Valley? Or were the designers of this hummingbird feeder uninformed of hummingbird behavior? Or, perhaps, the designers were optimistic, thinking if they made the feeder for five, they could cajole the birds into learning how to share?

I watch them and think, "Silly birds! We always refill the feeder. There is plenty for everyone."

But - am I not guilty of that same behavior, in other circumstances? Holding on tight to what I have, afraid to give to others, afraid there won't be enough left over for me? In my case, the object I hold on tightest to is time. I am fearful to commit to things because I don't want to lose my alone time, my flexibility, my "freedom." So I hesitate. I am less than generous when it comes to offering a helping hand. Because I think there won't be enough left for me.

Silly bird.


  1. I love how you took this little piece of noticing into a full-blown essay!

  2. Michelle,

    Here is a link to the extension service of Florida's page on hummingbirds. It does talk about their possessive nature. I think we all a bit guilty of being attached to our time. For me it seems that 24 hours manage to pass in something like 60 minutes and I accomplish very little of what I intended to do. So yes I neglect offering that helping hand because I just don't "have the time".

  3. Phillip, it's good to know that the hummingbirds in Florida are just as "me"-centric as the ones in California. Thanks for the great link.