Did Oakland fight hummingbirds or courtship?

DEAR JOAN: I witnessed a very bizarre incident recently that involved two hummingbirds and I know you will be able to decipher this bird weirdness.

The two circled furiously around each other in the porch, which is covered by a roof but is otherwise open. At first I thought they might be confused and did not know how to fly just a little lower to get off the porch, or that this was some bizarre courtship.

But then I noticed that one kept stabbing, attacking and throwing at the other. I’m not quite sure what to call the action, but it looked fierce!

They walked around and around for at least 3 minutes, then suddenly one lobster took off and the other jumped right on the hummingbird feeder that hung from the porch. My spouse and I decided that a lobster considered the feeder as its territory and fought against the potential intruder. Did we solve the case correctly?

Leslie Pahl, Oakland

DEAR LESLIE: Congratulations. You have won your “decipher of hummingbird behavior” award. A war for ownership of the nectar feeder was exactly what you witnessed.

We often think of hummingbirds as cute, gentle creatures, but when it comes to territory and a first-class food source, these refined, innocent birds can turn into viscous fighter jets. They will strike into each other and use their strong slender beaks as a lance or bayonet. Fights can be fatal.

DEAR JOAN: My mom lives in Livermore and has a satsuma and an orange tree in the backyard. This year there is something that eats the ripe citrus on the tree and leaves the empty peel.

From a distance, the fruit looks whole, but when you go to pick it, it is empty. Any ideas on what it is and how to discourage it?

Kristina Loquist, Livermore

DEAR KRISTINA: Your mother’s citrus trees are visited by rats. They have this talent, for lack of a better word, to be able to eat the inside of the orange while leaving the peel almost completely intact and still on the tree. They do the opposite with lemons – they eat the peel while letting the pulp dangle.

Your mother should look into controlling the rats by removing any other lures, such as omitted pet food, water bowls and nesting sites in ivy, piles of trees, under decks or in the garage.

Spraying the oranges with – or putting pots out of – hot sauce can also protect the fruit. If lethal methods are chosen, use only snap traps. Poisonous and sticky boards kill cruelly and often end up killing other animals, including birds of prey, which help keep the rat population in check.

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