It gives me a special feeling of accomplishment whenever I find a hummingbird nest near my feeders or hummingbird garden. It reminds me that all my planning and hard work was worthwhile.
As natural hummingbird habitats continue to disappear, it is important to do what we can to provide suitable replacement nesting sites for hummers. In a small way, its contributing to the continuation of a species.
The first male Ruby-throated hummingbirds arrive at my feeders in late April. Hummingbirds will migrate for four months and 2000 miles to get to New Hampshire. A male will begin to stake out his territory, looking for food sources such as flowers and, hopefully, my hummingbird feeders. The male hummer will guard an area of about a quarter of an acre. If the food is plentiful, the size of the territory could be as small as 50 square yards.
Female Ruby-throated hummingbirds will begin to arrive a week or two later. The female will search out nearby males after initiating nest construction. She will gather grasses, pieces of lichen, plant down and spider webs to build her hummingbird nest. The spider webs are used to secure the nest to the chosen location and to hold the nest together.
The chosen location is usually in a deciduous tree in dense woodland, five to 30 feet above ground and near the tip of a downward-sloping branch. If you are lucky enough to find a hummingbird nest, you will see that it is about the size of a walnut shell, very soft and camouflaged. You should leave the nest where you find it since it is possible that a female will return to the same place year after year. She may not use the same nest, but she could use the materials to construct a new one.
In many states it is illegal to possess a hummingbird nest.
During courtship, the male will attempt to attract the female's attention with spectacular flights in which he quickly flies upward and then dives downward at top speed, pulling up at the last moment to complete a U-shaped pattern. He will repeat the pattern several times before taking a break. The sound of the male's wings is particularly loud in courtship flight, which may be accompanied by vocal chirping. During courtship, the male hummer's wings can beat up to 200 times per second as opposed to the normal 90 beats per second.
Eventually, the female selects a male and mates with him. It is unclear why a female will choose a specific male. Her decision may be based on which male performed the most energetic flight display or displayed the most impressive coloring.
After mating, the male Ruby-throated hummingbird will move on to other females around his territory. The female will focus her efforts on the eggs and the young hatchlings. There are usually two eggs in each clutch. The second egg is normally laid two days after the first. The hummingbird eggs are about the size of a navy bean. The incubation period is 12 to 15 days. During this time, the female will leave the nest only to eat.
The hatchlings will be fed frequently. Their diet consists of nectar, tiny insects and spiders. This high protein diet will enable the young hummingbirds to grow quickly. They will be ready to leave the nest is just over three weeks. At that point, they will be fully feathered and about the same size as an adult. The female may feed them for another week, but soon she will consider them to be competitors and will force them from the nest and her feeding territory.
Studies have shown that hummingbirds will return to the same area from year to year.
Hummingbirds are one of the most beautiful of all the wild birds that visit my bird feeders. Attracting more hummingbirds will increase your chances of finding a hummingbird nest. Click here for even more hummingbird information.
Click here for some fun facts about the hummingbird that you might not know.