by Diane Deming
Hummingbirds in our area always return around the first week in May and we are ready for them. We have 6 feeders stationed all around our home and it keeps us busy cleaning and filling them. The males with their bright red throats arrive first to stake out their territory and the females start arriving shortly after the males. You ladies probably already know this, but the females do all the work. Other than wooing the females with their U shaped fancy dance, the males are done. After a few weeks of eating and looking over their territory, the nest building by the female begins.
They usually build their nests on top of a slender, descending branch of a deciduous tree like oak, from 10 to 40 feet off the ground. They also have been known to build in unusual places like on loops of wire, chains, and extension cords. In fact, a couple of years ago our neighbor found a nest just outside their back door on a metal post attached to their house. They were able to get a close-up view of the feeding and fledgling young. The nest takes about 6 to 10 days to finish and measures 2 inches across and about 1 inch deep. The inside of the nest is made of thistle or dandelion down held together by strands of spider silk and sometimes pine resin. The camouflaged exterior is decorated with bits of lichen and moss. They usually have two white eggs the size of small jelly beans, with an incubation period of 12 to 14 days. The whole nesting period is 18 to 22 days; and once they are hatched, they grow quickly. Hummers can have up to 2 broods a summer which makes the female’s job even more difficult. One year we observed a female making a new nest while still feeding the young from her first brood.
Last year we were lucky enough to find a nesting female in our front yard by the lake. The first video I took shows the female feeding the young with their beaks barely visible above the nest. Six days later you can see the second video showing how much they had grown. The last video shows how the young are able to get rid of their waste without dirtying the nest.