Do Hummingbirds Lay Eggs? (Yes, They Do!)


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Photo: Renee Grayson / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Hummingbirds are some of the most beautiful creatures on earth, making them popular amongst birders and non-birders. 

Most people only see the adults feeding, but the behind-the-scenes world of hummingbirds is equally as fascinating as their shimmering feathers.

Some people wonder if hummingbirds lay eggs since the nests are rarely seen. The answer to the question is a resounding yes! As with all birds, hummingbirds do lay eggs. They may lay the most miniature eggs in the world, but it is still an imperative part of their life cycle. Hummingbird eggs are often tiny, white, and elliptically shaped – weighing less than one gram on average!

The following article will take a deeper look into the world of hummingbird reproduction.

When Do Hummingbirds Breed?

The hummingbird family (Trochilidae) comprises over 300 species that breed at various times of the year, depending on each species’ geographic range. 

In the southern areas of the United States, where it is warmer, hummingbirds start breeding as early as March.

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On the other hand, hummingbirds that breed in the north and at high altitudes, where it is cooler, only begin in July.


Hummingbird Courtship Displays

Male hummingbirds have a wide array of courtship displays used to woo females that vary by species. They are incapable of walking or hopping, so they must perform mating rituals aerially.

Male hummingbirds fly in zig-zag patterns, loop around and even fly tens of meters into the air before hurtling down towards the ground – stopping mere centimeters before they crash. They also sing, display their feathers in sunlight, and dance for females.

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The hummingbird’s name comes from one of their displays that involves rapid flapping of their wings to generate as loud a humming sound as possible.

Multiple males display to a single female, and the female chooses her mate.


Hummingbird Mating

As with most things related to hummingbirds, mating is quick!

Hummingbirds mate for approximately three to five seconds only. The average time it takes for the eggs to develop in the female’s body after mating is as little as 24 hours, but it could take as long as 30 hours.


How Often Do Hummingbirds Lay Eggs?

Hummingbirds generally lay eggs once or twice per season, but they may lay eggs three or more times in a season.

Hummingbirds usually lay two eggs in each brood, one being laid at a time. The second egg is usually laid approximately two days after the first.

Hummingbirds build a new nest for each brood.


Where Do Hummingbirds Make Their Nests?

Hummingbirds are often fussy about where they build their nests – favoring areas containing deciduous trees, flowering plants and water. 

The dense vegetation provides shelter for both adults and chicks, while the presence of water keeps the surrounding environment cool. Flowering plants are essential as a food source.

Hummingbirds are not all picky nesters. Some species, such as the Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris), may be seen nesting in gardens, on wires, and on other artificial objects.


How Do Hummingbirds Build Their Nests?

Female hummingbirds are solely responsible for building the nest, which is usually created within one week. The female builds the nest before finding a mate.

Hummingbird nests are tiny, only being built to a maximum of four centimeters in diameter – approximately the size of a golf ball.

Hummingbirds build soft, supple, bowl-shaped nests. The nests are most frequently constructed on forks of small branches close to tree trunks, but they may also be made in rock crevices and on leaves.

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Nest building begins with making the base using leaves, twigs, fibers, and other plant materials. The main component, spider webs, is then used to bind the pieces of plant material together and affix the nest to the foundation.

The nest is lined with soft plant material such as plant fibers and down. The female then places lichen and moss on the nest’s exterior to camouflage the nest.

The design of the hummingbird’s nest allows it to expand as the number of birds in the nest increases and the chicks grow. Over time, as the chicks get bigger, the nest stretches and loses its structure and shape – making it unsuited for reuse.


What Happens After The Eggs Are Laid?

Once the eggs have been laid, the female sits on the nest to incubate the eggs. Male hummingbirds are very rarely responsible for incubation duties. In fact, most male hummingbirds move on in search of a new mate after mating.

During incubation, the female only leaves the nest to preen and forage. That way, the eggs are well protected from the many threats.

Hummingbird chicks hatch after 14 to 18 days of incubation. The hatchlings have pink or grey skin, hardly any feathers, and closed eyes at birth.

The altricial hatchlings cannot stand and ultimately depend on their mothers for warmth, food, and protection. The hatchlings develop slowly and only become fully feathered after three weeks.

The mother feeds the chicks for 30 to 60 days after hatching – depending on the region where the hummingbird occurs. The chicks are fed insects and nectar to give them the essential protein content and energy required to grow and thrive. 

After the feeding period, the chicks become independent.

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Hummingbird chicks begin learning to fly two weeks after hatching and fledge shortly afterwards.


How To Attract Hummingbirds To Your Garden

These popular shining, flying jewels may visit gardens with indigenous flowering plants and abundant water sources.

Unique hummingbird feeders, often red in color, that contain nectar can also be placed in the garden to attract hummingbirds.

Suppose your garden contains the correct vegetation and environmental conditions. In that case, you may be lucky enough to have hummingbirds breed and lay their tiny eggs in dense vegetation close to your house.


Conclusion

Hummingbirds make petite nests and lay the smallest eggs of any bird in the world.

Hummingbird nests are tiny and extremely well camouflaged, making them difficult to see.

The positioning and camouflage of the hummingbird nests protect the eggs from being located by predators such as the Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata).

If you find a hummingbird nest, always remember to keep a safe distance away to avoid disturbing the birds and do not touch the nest or remove the eggs.

Learn More About Hummingbirds:

  1. Do Hummingbirds Build Nests?
  2. Can Hummingbirds Eat Honey?
  3. Can Hummingbirds Open Their Beaks?
  4. Where & How Do Hummingbirds Sleep?
  5. Can Hummingbirds Fly Backwards?
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Tristan Silver

Tristan is a South African biologist, photographer, and birder. From a young age, he developed a passion for the outdoors, being taught basic biology and shown animals in their natural habitat. He picked up photography at age 11, and it led him into the world of birding and exploring. He has traveled throughout South Africa, documenting over 630 bird species. He is also interested in amphibians, reptiles, insects, and some plants. He uses photography to document his experiences and has had his photographs appear in African Birdlife magazine. Tristan holds an Advanced Scuba Diving qualification and has dived on many coral reefs. He completed his honours degree in Biological Sciences at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. He is also a writer, expressing and sharing his emotions from his experiences through his writing, combined with photographs.

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