One of the most fascinating animal behaviors can you see in your backyard is the display flight of the male ruby-throated hummingbird.
Over the years, I have been fortunate to witness this fete on a number of occasions. However, until last week I had never observed it three separate times in a matter of a couple of days.
This acrobatic maneuver is unmistakable. The male will repeatedly fly to and fro in a wide U-shaped arc. Often the male is so adept at retracing the path of his previous arc it appears he is coursing along an unseen track.
At times, the bottom of the arc brings the male so close to the head of a perched female you are convinced he is going to collide with her. As he approaches the seemingly unperturbed object of his affection, the buzzing sound created by the air passing through his tail and wing feathers becomes appreciably louder. This dramatic display is designed to convince the female he is a suitable suitor. However, the only time she gives him the time of day is during a handful of days prior to her laying a clutch of two eggs.
After I enjoyed the sight of a male rubythroat engaged in an aerial display, I related the story to my wife. She said she had never been lucky enough to see the display. Remarkably the very next day, while we were both standing on our deck a male suddenly appeared and performed the aerial fete in front of us. In fact, one side of the U-shaped arc was so close to our heads I thought he was going to collide with us.
A couple of days later my daughter was standing on the deck with us when she suddenly exclaimed, “What is that hummingbird doing?” I looked up and could not believe my eyes–a male rubythroat was once again engaged in a display flight.
Observing three ruby-throated hummingbird aerial displays and being able to be with my wife and daughter when they both witnessed their first courtship displays is something I will never forget; this is backyard wildlife watching at its best.