Were Oakland hummingbirds fighting or courting?

Dear Joan: I witnessed a very strange incident recently involving two hummingbirds, and I know you will be able to decipher these strange birds.

The two ferociously circled each other in the front porch area, covered with a roof but otherwise open. At first I thought they might have been confused and didn’t know how to fly a little less out of the balcony, or that this was a strange courtship ritual.

But then I noticed that one of them kept hitting and attacking and attacking the other. Not quite sure what to call the action but it sounded fierce!

They walked around and circled for at least 3 minutes, then suddenly one of them took off, and the other jumped straight onto the hummingbird feeder hanging from the balcony. My wife and I decided that a Hummer considered the feeder his or her territory and fought the potential infringer. Did we solve the issue correctly?

Leslie Ball, Auckland

Dear Leslie: our end. She won the “Deciphering Hummingbird Behavior” award. The war over nectar feeder ownership was exactly what you were watching.

We often think of hummingbirds as gentle, gentle creatures, but when it comes to area and a prime source of nutrition, these refined, innocent birds can turn out to be fierce fighters. They will bump into each other and use their slender, powerful beaks like a spear or harpoon. Fights can become deadly.

Dear Joan: My mother lives in Livermore and has a Satsuma and an orange tree in her backyard. This year, something is eating the ripe citruses on the tree and leaving the empty peel behind.

The fruit looks whole from afar but when you go to pick it, it is empty. Any ideas what it is and how to deter it?

Christina Loquist, Livermore

Dear Christina: Mice visit your mother’s citrus trees. They have this talent, for lack of a better word, of being able to eat the inside of an orange while leaving the peel completely intact and still on the tree. They do the opposite with lemons – they eat the peel while leaving the pulp hanging.

Your mother should consider rat control by removing any other attractions, such as abandoned pet food, water bowls, ivy nesting spots, wood piles, under floors or in the garage.

Sprinkling oranges with hot sauce or squishing them in a vase can also protect the fruit. If deadly methods are chosen, use only surprise traps. Poisons and sticky plates are brutally killed and often end up killing other animals, including birds of prey that help keep the rat population in check.

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