One subject that fascinates many birdwatchers is the art of a bird nest. Varying from species to species, the bird nest is truly remarkable. And one could easily describe a hummingbird nest as enchanting. Learn all about hummingbird nests, from how they’re built to how you can encourage nesting in your own backyard.
Spring is Hummingbird Nesting Season
While many birdwatchers have come upon a bird’s nest in early spring, few have managed to find a hummingbird nest. The window of time to observe one, from construction to the young leaving the nest, is 5 to 8 weeks. If you find a hummingbird nest in your own backyard, use the same caution you would to approach any newborn. Enjoy it from afar in order to avoid any risks to the nest or chicks. As a skittish bird, if the hummingbird feels threatened, she could abandon the nest. If you dream of witnessing the miracle of a hummingbird birth, you’ll need to understanding the female hummingbird’s needs. Learning about these needs can help you attract them to your yard.
Hummingbird Nesting Habits
First, let’s talk about the hummingbird’s nesting habits. Hummingbirds are not cavity nesters. They will not build nests, lay eggs, or raise their young inside the cavities of a tree. Unlike other birds, you will recognize the nest of hummingbird from its unique cup shape.
Hummingbirds choose sheltered places for their nests. The female hummingbird handles all the groundwork in preparation for the impending birth of her young. That includes choosing the site of the nest, testing it for stability, gathering materials, and ultimately, the care of the chicks. They build them in places that will protect their young from the elements and predators. For example, common locations for these nests are forked branches of a tree or dense bushes. Like several other species, the hummingbird may also choose a thorny bush for the instant protection it affords her young.
Nests are built as low as three feet from the ground or as high as sixty feet up. The assembling of the nest is a feat like no other. Some of the materials the hummingbird will use to build her nest include:
- Spider silk / spider webs
- Bark fragments
- Plant fibers
The female weaves the materials together into a dense cup, decorated with materials that provide camouflage. She manages to curve the edge of the cup slightly inward. As a result, the eggs will not fall out during strong winds. By weaving the spider silk into the materials, the nest expands as the young chicks do. The project is a huge undertaking, but the nest itself measures only one and a half inches in diameter—about the size of a silver dollar.
4 Ways to Provide Areas for Hummingbird Nesting
If you want to entice the female hummingbird to your yard, offer an environment that will feel safe for nest-building. Keep these four basic rules in mind when setting out to attract the nesting hummingbird:
- Food: The hummingbird gets its nutritional needs from nectar-producing flowers and insects. A hummingbird feeder is another source of food. You can buy hummingbird nectar, or you can create your own solution. You can use this simple recipe: Bring four cups of water to a boil, add one cup of sugar and stir until dissolved, remove from heat and cool completely.
- Shelter: Their fluttering wings say they are always on the go. However, hummingbirds need perching spots and sheltering shrubs to make them feel safe. Give them plants for shelter from elements. Consider a thorny plant they can use as protection.
- Water: Bubbling or misting water sources are your best choice for hummingbirds. Creating a natural spot for a quick bath is as easy as positioning a mister near large leaves.
- Red: Hummingbirds are attracted to vibrant colors—especially red. Consequently, it’s an ideal color to include in your garden to attract them. Besides flowers, consider red decorative garden items as well.
See Also: How to Grow a Bird Friendly Garden
Don’t Forget Safety
Keeping these four tips in mind, it’s also important to take safety into consideration. Too many nearby feeders will attract large numbers of birds. This can discourage the hummingbird from nesting nearby. Take the time to plan a placement strategy for the feeders in your yard. Keep feeding resources at a distance from areas that will make good nesting areas for the hummingbird. Avoid using pesticides and insecticides. They are deadly to birds and eliminate food sources. Likewise, fertilizers and bug repellents can also be toxic to these delicate birds.
When it comes to insects, it’s not necessary to rid your backyard of all of them. It’s more about controlling which insects are within the hummingbird’s nesting area. Small insects can be a source of nutrition. On the other hand, larger insects like hornets and wasps can pose a danger to these tiny birds. Praying mantises have been known to attack hummingbirds. However, you can protect hummingbirds and their nests by simply relocating the praying mantis.
Above all, keep large predators out of your hummingbird friendly yard. Cats, dogs, snakes, and possums can make hummingbirds feel threatened. As a result, if she senses their presence, she will look for safer nesting areas.
Sit Back and Enjoy These Tiny Birds
After you have spent time learning all about hummingbird nests and creating the ideal environment for them, don’t forget to enjoy the fruits of your labors. These little birds are the crown jewels of birdwatching. Witnessing the preparation for their young and their subsequent flight from the nest is an experience you will look forward to year after year.