Do Hummingbirds Build Nests? (Explained)


The sight of the small, but mighty hummingbird arrives with the blooms of gardens and wildflowers. Many people set up colorful, red hummingbird feeders, offering these creatures sweet nectar.

As hummingbirds swiftly buzz in and out to food sources, their egg-laying sites can be a mystery and very difficult to find.

Why Do Hummingbirds Build Nests?

Hummingbirds build tiny 1-inch nests on tree twigs and in dense shrubbery. They are small in size, constructed of soft and flexible materials. The nests are camouflaged making them appear as tree bumps or moss. Only female hummingbirds build and tend to nests. Females are dull-colored, and as they tend to their eggs and chicks, do not draw attention to the nesting site.

Read on to learn more about where and when nests are built, as well as the size and materials that they are made out of. 

This article will also briefly discuss other ways in which hummingbirds’ nests are protected.

Where Nests Are Built

Hummingbirds typically build nests in deciduous tree foliage, or dense shrubs, near water and food sources (nectar-producing plants). 

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Some hummingbird species will build in conifers such as the calliope (Selasphorus calliope) or rufous (Selasphorus rufus). 

However, some species, such as the ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) adapt to the environment, nesting on non-tree items, such as plant hangers, clotheslines, or wires.

Hummingbirds are only found in the Western Hemisphere, with about half of the species living 10 degrees above and below the equator. 

When Nests Are Built

Species and location (climate) determine when nests are built. 

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In the southern United States, hummingbirds start breeding in March. Whereas mid-summer cooler northern or mountainous regions will breed in July. 

Anna’s hummingbird (Calypte anna) is a western, Pacific coast-located species that starts nesting in November.

Size Of Nests

Hummingbirds are small in size, ranging from 3 to 5 inches long

Their small stature means that they build small nests, with an approximate diameter of 1-inch (depending upon the species). This is about the same size as a quarter or bottle cap. 

Nests are often built on top of thin forked branches that extend about one foot out from the main trunk, and 5 to 10 feet up from the ground. 

Some hummingbirds can even build up to 90 feet above the ground. They do not build nests in commercially-made bird houses.

Egg Size

Hummingbirds typically lay on average 2 white, elliptical-shaped eggs (a clutch). 

They are laid one at a time, about one or two days apart. 

The eggs are about the size of a jellybean, weighing up to 1 gram, although typically are about 1/50 of an ounce.

Nesting Materials

After breeding, the female hummingbird starts to gather and form her nest, which takes about a week. 

The hummingbirds’ nest is made of a combination of natural, soft, fuzzy, and flexible materials such as thistle, twigs, dandelion, or seed pod fluff. It is held together with spider silk or pine resin.

Spider silk (or resin) holds the nest together while anchoring it to the foundation of the tree or shrub.

The female stamps down the base and forms a rim by pressing the edges with her small body frame.

Lichen and moss go around the exterior to camouflage these tiny nests, making them appear as a tiny knot of wood or bump on the tree branch.

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This video shows a hummingbird expertly building her nest:

Protection Of Nests

In addition to the tiny, camouflaged exterior of nests, hummingbirds’ nests are also protected in other ways.

Females Only

Only females build and tend to the nests. 

Male hummingbirds’ colorful bodies would alert predators as to the location of nests, therefore they stay away. 

Females are not colorful, often a blend of white, brown, and dark green, thus blending in with the nest and its surroundings.

Predator Diversion

If predators such as blue jays, snakes, chipmunks, or crows were to approach the nest, a female will attempt to drive it away. It uses speed, diving, and other mid-air maneuvers to direct the predator away from the eggs and chicks. 

Additionally, hummingbirds can beat their wings from 50 to 80 times per second. This incredible speed of a hummingbird’s wings creates a buzzing sound that can drive predators away. 

It is illegal for humans to touch or disturb a hummingbird’s nest. It is best to view them from a distance with binoculars, which greatly reduces the chances of inviting a predator to the location or upsetting the nest.

Leaving The Nest

The hummingbird’s eggs are incubated for about two weeks. Once hatched the chicks remain in the nest receiving regurgitated nutrition from their mother. 

The female also warms the chicks in the nest for the first few days of life, for about a week before they start to develop feathers.

About 18 to 28 days after hatching, the juvenile hummingbirds are ready to leave the nest.

Hummingbirds that are not nesting often shelter on a twig during the night.

Nesting Again

Since the nests are flexible, they are often not reused for future clutches. They tend to lose their original shape when the chicks hatch and move around. 

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However, some species will return to the same nesting site each year (broad-tailed: Selasphorus platycercus) or will build and stack nests on top of each other (calliope: Selasphorus calliope).

In Conclusion

Hummingbirds expertly build nests in such a way that they are difficult to detect. 

Their nests are small in size, around the size of a quarter, typically holding two tiny eggs about the size of navy beans.

The nests are built of soft and flexible materials, attached with spider webbing or resin to anchor them in place. The exterior consists of lichen or moss to help camouflage them, making them look like bumps or knots on a tree or bush.

Female hummingbirds are the only ones to build and protect nests. Their dull color prevents them from drawing attention to the location of nests, keeping predators away.

Read More About Hummingbirds:

  1. Do Hummingbirds Lay Eggs?
  2. Where & How Do Hummingbirds Sleep?
  3. Can Hummingbirds See In The Dark?
  4. Do Hummingbirds Have Predators?
  5. Can Hummingbirds Eat Honey?
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James Goodman

James is a native Texan with a love for birding and outdoor adventures. When he's not birdwatching, you can find him hiking, camping or playing the piano.

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