Are Male Hummingbirds Territorial at Feeders and Flowers?

If you've seen hummingbirds fighting and chasing each other, you might wonder if hummingbirds are territorial. Learn how to feed multiple hummingbirds.

male ruby throated hummingbirdCourtesy Ande Findlay
A male ruby-throated hummingird that is fiercely guarding his feeding territory

Hummingbirds are a joy to see at a feeder, especially males with their brightly colored throat feathers. But usually when you see a male hummingbird at a feeder, you only see one. And there’s a reason for that. Male hummingbirds are territorial. Here’s what you need to know about this common behavior.

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territorial hummingbirdsCourtesy Rose Reising
These hummingbirds are territorial and chase each other away from the feeder

Why Male Hummingbirds Are Territorial

Male hummingbirds are very territorial because they rely on a limited resource. Birding experts Kenn and Kimberly Kaufman say, “It’s true that hummingbirds can be remarkably feisty about defending their food sources. It makes sense considering that flowers, their primary source of nectar, last for only a limited time. A hummingbird that stakes out a good patch of blooms may defend that finite resource with great gusto.”

A bird may zoom around your yard, chasing away other males. Kenn and Kimberly add, “So when they defend one of your feeders, they’re exhibiting the same territorial behavior. Some individuals are more aggressive than others and therefore are more likely to dominate a single feeder.”

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multiple hummingbirdsBonnie Taylor Barry/Shutterstock
Hummingbird competition at the feeder

How Do I Feed Multiple Hummingbirds?

To feed multiple male hummingbirds, you’ll need some space. Kenn and Kimberly recommend providing more than one feeder and growing native plants.

When setting up multiple feeders, try to place them at least 15 feet apart. If the layout of your outdoor space allows, put the feeders out of sight of each other. If the male hummingbirds can’t see each other, they won’t be as busy chasing each other away.

Also, to see more of these fliers, provide plenty of native nectar plants that will supply shelter and help attract the small insects hummingbirds rely on for protein. Tube-shaped red and orange flowers, like honeysuckle or trumpet creeper, are common hummer favorites. Visit your local native plant nursery and ask for their suggestions.

Next, learn how to attract hummingbirds with 10 expert tips.

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Rachel Maidl
Rachel Maidl is a senior editor for Birds & Blooms magazine. She enjoys bird-watching in her urban backyard and local state parks, gardening for pollinators and researching new plants. Her favorite backyard visitors are the bumblebees that visit her sedums.