Hummingbirds dazzle with their bright colors and fast movements that catch the attention of observers and leave many in awe. However, they also have a secretive part of their life that we don’t often see: nesting.
Hummingbirds are the smallest bird family in the world, with the smallest species growing to about two and a quarter inches in length and weighing approximately 0.07 ounces.
In comparison, the largest species weighs 0.7 ounces and grows to eight inches in length. That’s tiny! Can you imagine how small their eggs must be?
They are absolutely minute – about the size of a coffee or jelly bean, weighing less than 0.02 ounces. As you’d imagine, the nests are also tiny. They measure about one inch in diameter.
Hummingbirds are almost all migratory. They fly from their wintering grounds in Central America and Mexico to their breeding grounds in the United States and Canada in spring every year.
They time their arrival to their breeding grounds with the blooming of flowering plants like honeysuckles that they depend on for nectar.
What Time Of Year Do Hummingbirds Lay Eggs?
In general, hummingbirds lay their eggs in spring and summer, which is in line with the blooming of their favorite flowers from which they derive nectar.
While spring and summer are the main seasons for egg laying, the time of year varies significantly according to the geographic area.
For many species, the peak egg-laying season is from May to August, but they can still lay eggs from as early as February to as late as October in warm regions.
In the southwestern United States, birds like the Costa’s hummingbird lay eggs between February and June. In the northwest, species such as the Rufous Hummingbird lay eggs much later, typically between April and July.
Only one hummingbird breeds in the eastern United States, and that’s the ruby-throated hummingbird. Their egg-laying season typically begins in February, and the eggs are laid until July.
One main factor determining when the different species lay eggs is how far they have to fly from their wintering grounds. Those that have to fly further north breed and lay eggs later because they reach their breeding grounds later in the season.
The northern areas also take longer to warm up and cool down more quickly, so the species that breed further north have shorter breeding seasons than those in the south.
The Anna’s hummingbird remains in the United States all year round, and they sometimes have a completely different breeding season to the migratory species. They occur in a warm climate, so they have been recorded laying eggs in December already.
However, that is an exception because mid-winter is not the ideal time to raise young, and it only happens in warmer-than-usual winters. They usually lay eggs from February until May but may stop in August only.
Male hummingbirds usually migrate to the breeding grounds first, arriving in early spring to claim their territory and mating ground. The territories are chosen according to food availability, and they defend them fiercely.
After one or two weeks, the females arrive and start building nests.
The females build the nests by themselves, a process that usually takes around one week to complete. When the nest is complete, they go off searching for a mate.
Once mated, the females return to their respective nests and lay their dull white eggs a few days later.
The female is entirely responsible for all the nesting duties, including incubation, raising the chicks, and protecting the chicks from predators while still looking after herself.
Female hummingbirds are aggressive around the nest and chase away any other hummingbirds that come too close.
“Where are the males throughout all of this?” you may wonder.
They are only involved in courtship and mating, after which they leave the female to do all the rest of the nesting duties. They don’t even help with the nest building.
They only guard their territories and look for new females with whom they can mate.
How Many Eggs Do Hummingbirds Lay?
The number of eggs female hummingbirds lay in each clutch (set of eggs) varies according to the species but typically ranges between one and three. The standard amount is two eggs per clutch.
The number of broods produced each season depends on the species and breeding location, but they usually have a minimum of one set of young per season. Some species can lay eggs up to three times in a season.
After Egg Laying
After the eggs are laid, the female incubates them by sitting on them. Incubation is done to maintain the warm temperature inside the egg to ensure the embryo develops healthily.
The chicks hatch between two and three weeks after the start of incubation.
After hatching, the nestlings cannot fend for themselves, so they depend on their mother for warmth and food. They stay and develop in the nest for approximately one month until they are ready to fledge and leave.
Feeding Hummingbird Nestlings
Hummingbird nestlings, or “baby hummingbirds,” eat the same food types as their parents but in different quantities.
The hummingbird nestlings are fed insects almost exclusively to provide them with a large amount of protein that ensures they grow quickly, have strong beaks and bones, and thrive overall.
Their diet is supplemented with nectar to provide the energy they require.
Do Hummingbirds Use The Same Nest Every Year?
Hummingbirds don’t ever use the same nest from the previous year. They do return to the same area year after year, but they build a new nest every season.
Hummingbird nests are never reused because they are delicately made and flexible.
The nest is made with leaves, twigs, and other plant materials that they weave together using spider webs. The nest is attached to a foundation using spider silk.
The nests are placed in a hidden location and camouflaged using lichen and moss on the exterior.
The nests are tiny when the eggs are laid, but once the chicks hatch and start growing, the nest stretches out to accommodate the growing bodies. That makes the nest unusable for a second time because it loses its structure.
Those species that lay multiple clutches in a season build a new nest every time eggs need to be laid.
Generally speaking, hummingbirds lay eggs during spring and summer. That is mainly because their favorite flowers that they obtain nectar from bloom at that time. They typically lay their eggs between May and August. However, hummingbirds can lay eggs as early as February and as late as October.
Hummingbirds that breed further north lay eggs later in the season and have shorter breeding seasons than those that breed further south.
Females lay one to three eggs at a time and can lay up to three sets in a season.
The females are solely responsible for the nesting activities, including building the nest, incubation, raising, and protecting the chicks. They make a new nest every time they need to lay eggs.