Hummingbird Nests

All You Want to Know About Hummingbird Nests


Although they may flirt about in your garden regularly, most people have never seen where a hummingbird nests.  Tucked away from our vision and interference, the nests of these amazing and beautiful birds are accessible for viewing if you know what to look for.


The female hummingbird is in charge of the nest placement, building and maintenance.  After the mating process, the male simply disappears - his job is done.  Female hummingbirds test the stability of a possible nest site by repeatedly landing on and taking off from a branch or bush.  She might look for a Y-shaped branch and will generally by-pass the bird house as it is a little too confined for her tastes.  Once she finds the perfect spot and it passes her rigorous testing, she begins to build her nest.


Often hummingbird nests can found near water, such as beside a stream, lake or pond.  The tiny hummingbird eggs need humidity to develop properly and a nearby water source provides that.  Many species will nest a good distance from the ground to protect from marauding enemies, but others will choose a low lying bush as the ideal spot.  Also look for nests close by gardens or meadows filled with blossoms to a hummingbird’s tastes.  Some female species don’t require food in such close proximity, but many do.  In non-tropical climates, the hummingbird mating season coincides with blooming flowers while in tropical areas, the hummingbirds can mate all year round.


Sometimes built underneath a large leaf or even in a cave or alcove, the nest of a hummingbird is small, about the size of a walnut shell or large coin.  It is made of a combination of spider webs, plant material and moss.  Some hummingbirds will use lichen, dryer lint or stray fluffs of cotton.   Nests are often white or grey in appearance and you may even mistake them for a knot or lump on the tree branch.  The female will choose a shaded spot in order to keep the optimum temperature for incubation – warm and humid, but below 96 degrees.  She will likely use sticks and leaves incorporated into the nest to add shade where necessary. 


Female hummingbirds have been known to steal nesting materials from each other.  The one who was robbed will waste no time heading to a neighboring nest to do some stealing of her own.  The female hummingbird will carry the nesting materials to her chosen spot in her beak, a tiny bit at a time.  When the nest is ready to be glued together, she will gather spider webs, wrapping them around her beak and breast to transport over.  Once at the nesting site, mother hummingbird will push the spider webs onto the structure like a plaster, sticking all of the elements together quite well.


To prepare for the eggs, the female will sit firmly in her nest, pushing on the bottom and sides with her rear and wings to form the correct shape.  She will also use her feet to stamp down the bottom of the nest, firming the base and making sure it is well attached.


Hummingbird nests are narrow at the opening and wider at the base, providing a shelter when the winds are cool.  The mother will hustle her baby birds down into the wider hollow when necessary.  Often spring-built nests are deeper than those built in summer, to provide that sanctuary against chills.


It will take our female approximately 5 to 7 days to complete her nest and she will work on it tirelessly until completion.  Next year, most hummingbird species will begin it all again, although some build over top of the old nest, using it as a base.


Hummingbird nests can be spotted if you know what to look for and where to look.  Don’t disturb a nest if you see one, just admire from afar the hard work and intricacy this beautiful bird builds for her young.


 

 

 


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