Our Neighbor

He owned the backyard. Or at least he thought he did. He wasn’t the nicest of neighbors. He went to war with any intruder daring to enter his property, driving them all away. An obnoxious defender of territory, he never backed down from a fight. He was certain that the beautiful purple desert sage bush at the far corner of the lawn belonged to him, as did the hummingbird feeder dangling from the patio overhang just outside our bedroom window. It was all his. He nested on a branch high in the recesses of the lemon tree and kept a sharp eye out for any threats to his domain. Should another hummingbird appear, he would race to confront it and, if necessary, knock it out of the air. It is said that hummingbirds are quite territorial and he proved that to be a huge understatement. Like the proverbial grumpy old man, his mantra was “Get off my lawn!” He was a fighter, not a lover. 

It wasn’t just other hummingbirds that he fought against, either. The Mexican fruit bats migrating through our Arizona desert drove him crazy. In the evening hundreds of them would descend on his yard, glomming onto his feeder, and sucking it dry of its precious nectar. He could only flit and fret and fuss and hope they’d soon go away. The bees buzzing around the garden’s blooms and blossoms also loved the sugary water that leaked from the feeder’s flowery tubes and they were also a continual nemesis. Life wasn’t easy for him, but he didn’t make it easier. We’d sit in the quiet of our bedroom and watch him struggle. 

He was a demanding little bird. On occasion, when he found the feeder empty, he would repeatedly hurl himself against our sliding glass patio door. Bam! Bam! Bam! He’d create a huge racket and kept it up until my wife would finally go outside and refill the feeder. If she happened outside without the nectar, he would dive bomb her head until she went back inside and cooked another pot of his life sustaining food. He was always impatient, making sure that he was her first and only priority. We’d find ourselves laughing at his clamorous, insistent, high maintenance antics. He might be a jerk, but he was our jerk. 

There were four brightly colored feeding tubes in the glass feeder, but he never shared. It was all his and his alone. He had no noticeable social life, no friends, no family. Just a tiny, lonely bird with a huge yard to guard. Sometimes we would sit on the patio glider just a few feet from the feeder and watch as he fluttered, skipped, and danced just out of our reach. He would flash us his rose-red throat, then suddenly whirl away, turning his gorgeous shiny green back to us as if to remind us he didn’t belong to us and didn’t need us. Eventually he’d come close to us as if realizing we weren’t the enemy, but friendly, benevolent folks who, though capable of swatting him out of the air, never would. 

Life goes on and then it doesn’t. One morning we found his tiny body on the porch swing. It was a sad moment. Our beautiful neighbor and friend, angry and demanding as he could be, would no longer grace us with his presence. We miss him terribly. 

Numerous hummingbirds have passed through his yard on their way to somewhere else. So far, no one has moved in…