A Beginner’s Guide To Hummingbird Nests

A Beginner’s Guide To Hummingbird Nests
Each year these tiny perky creatures jazz up our gardens and parks as they migrate to the suburbs in search of nectar-feeding shrubs. But these birds continue to surprise us even with their nesting habits. Watching hummingbird nests can be an enchanting experience for just about everyone. 

Hard to Spot

A hummingbird nest is so tiny and yet so perfectly camouflaged that most of us have never seen one. What makes it one of the great wonders of nature is the fact that even if you are trying to find one, you can easily overlook the nest because it is nearly impossible to spot. However, if you are blessed with good luck and happen to find one, do not get too close to the nest or hatchlings. Hummingbirds are tiny skittish creatures and they may abandon their nests right away once they feel threatened.  

Where Do Hummingbirds Build their Nests

Unlike most other birds, they are picky about their nests. Few species have oriented themselves to suburban life and can easily nest on man-made things like plant hangers and extension cords. But most other hummingbird species build their nests on branches of deciduous trees. 

Female hummingbirds build their nests on a mostly descending branch near water and under the cover of trees like poplar, oak, and hackberry. The leaves of deciduous trees provide great protection for their chicks and the nearby water helps keep it nice and cool. For the most part, these tiny birds build nests close to the flowering plants. 

Since hummingbirds are quite protective of their hatchlings, they usually build nests in sheltered locations to avoid dangers like strong winds, rainwater, predators, and also direct sunlight. For nesting sites, hummingbirds choose slender branches in dense foliage or on a forked tree branch. In order to provide an extra protection to their nests, females prefer dense thicket or thorny shrubs. However, they may also build nests in some weird and unique spots like:

  • Clotheslines or slender cables
  • Either at the top of porch lamps or inside
  • At the top of garden decorations, wind chimes, ceiling sprinklers, small pipes, security cameras, and such other outdoor fixtures
  • Sometimes under the soccer goal net
  • To protect their chicks from predators, females may also build nests on top of a cactus

Learn More: How To Design A Hummingbird Garden

Courtesy: baynature.org

What Does A Hummingbird Nest Look Like

If you look at the hummingbird nest from below, it seems like a small bump. Likewise, the canopy of leaves over the nest makes it virtually impossible to spot it from above. If you try to locate it from the side, you’ll feel like its a kind of tangled mass joined together with lichens and fibers. Depending upon the particular kind of species and habitat, each nest varies slightly from one another.

In order to examine whether or not the perch is strong enough to hold the nest, females first land on the nesting site many a time. Most perches are good enough to support the weight of hummingbirds, thanks to their tiny size and very little weight.

Learn More: All About Hummingbird Perches

What is a Hummingbird Nest Made Of

Some of the most commonly found materials for constructing the nests are outlined below:

  • Thistles, cattails, or dandelion down
  • Strands of spider silk and pine resin
  • Cotton fibers
  • Tiny bits of leaves, bark, lichens, and moss
  • Fuzz and hair

The tiny bits of moss and lichens are woven together on the outside of a hummingbird nest. As a result, the dense cup of the nest is perfectly camouflaged thanks to moss and lichens. The use of spider silk is especially important because it makes the nest flexible. Thus, the nest becomes stretchable enough that it allows the chicks to grow. Each cup-shaped nest of the hummingbird is sturdy, compact and has spongy floors. A female bird makes the edge of the nest curve toward the inside so that the eggs may not tip out on windy days. Thus, by weaving together tiny bits of leaves or twigs and anchoring the nest to the foundation, the mother helps keep her brood safe and secure. 

Learn More: How To Attract Hummingbirds To Your Yard

Hummingbird Nest Facts

  • Depending upon the particular kind of species as well as the availability of nesting spots, a hummingbird nest can normally be found 3 to 60 feet high above the ground. 
  • It is the female who is solely responsible for just about everything about nest-building, such as picking out nesting spots, piling up materials and for nurturing chicks. It takes around 6-10 days and several hours each day for a female bird to build her nest. 
  • A hummingbird nest can be as small as the size of a golf ball, navy beans or perhaps a ping-pong ball. Generally speaking, the diameter of each egg measures just over an inch.
  • The female hummingbird lays up to two eggs (with incubation period of 15-18 days) but the hatchlings grow pretty quickly which is why a nest has to be elastic enough to accommodate the growing size of hatchlings. It takes around 18 to 28 days for baby hummingbirds to fledge. The reason why a hummingbird nest needs to be stretchable is because hatchlings cannot fly on their own until babies reach almost the size of their mother.  
  • A hummingbird nest can typically last for just one season. However, the female bird may either rebuild another nest somewhere close to that or right at the top of this old one. 
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