Hummingbird Nests 101: Everything You Need to Know!

Hummingbird nest camouflaged on a tree branch

No doubt, hummingbird nests are unique and complex structures. In particular, these small, cup-shaped roosts reveal the intricate building skills of hummingbirds.

From the materials used to how they are arranged, hummingbird nests can tell us a lot about the birds themselves. They are structured in ways that reflect the birds’ preferences for space, safety, and comfort.

In this article, we will look at some of the most interesting aspects of hummingbird nests, including what they often look like, if they can be reused, how long it takes to build them, where they’re found, and more.

Hummingbird Nests Quick Facts

Appearance:Appear like little knots of wood
Size: 1–2 inches in diameter; comparable to the size of ping-pong balls or golf balls
Location:Slender branches of deciduous trees, dense shrubs, windbreaks of buildings, electric wires, and lampposts (usually 10 to 40 ft above the ground)
Construction Materials:Mosses, lichens, tiny bird feathers, grasses, barks, leaves, spider web silk, bud scales, pieces of animal fur, twigs, and other bits of plants
Construction Time:6–10 days
Eggs per Nest:1–3 eggs
Nesting Season:Varies among species; some begin in July, while most start as early as March or April
Reuse of Nests:Rarely

10 Interesting Facts About Hummingbird Nests

Hummingbird nest on palm tree

When it comes to building nests, hummingbirds are probably among the most skilled birds. Their roosts are some of the most complex structures in nature. Here are 10 interesting facts about hummingbird nests:

  1. Camouflage expertise: Commonly, hummingbirds camouflage their nests with bits of lichen and moss to blend in with their surroundings.
  2. Diverse building locations: Besides trees, hummingbirds can adapt to urban environments and build nests on ledges, lights, or other human-made structures.
  3. Wind and weather resistance: Hummingbird nests are built to withstand strong winds and adverse weather.
  4. Cup-shaped design: In a 2017 study, hummingbird nests were found to be cup-shaped because they can be constructed more quickly and with fewer materials than roofed nests.
  5. Female-led construction: Female hummingbirds are solely responsible for nest building and chick-rearing.
  6. Innovative water drainage: In most cases, the structure of hummingbird nests allows for water drainage, which prevents flooding during heavy rain.
  7. Height variability: Hummingbird nests can be built at various heights, from just above the ground to high up in trees. However, this greatly depends on the species in question and its environmental threats.
  8. Remarkably small size: The hummingbirds’ nest is typically the size of a walnut shell, golf ball, or ping-pong ball, showcasing their ability to create compact living spaces.
  9. Selective material gathering: Generally, hummingbirds are picky about the materials they use to build their nests. These small birds often travel significant distances to find the perfect components.
  10. Use of sticky spider silk: Hummingbirds ingeniously use spider silk in constructing their nests, which in turn allows the nest to stretch as the chicks grow.

The nests of hummingbirds are as unique as the birds themselves. From their use of spider silk to the careful selection of nesting sites, these birds show a great mix of strength, adaptability, and delicate craftsmanship.

What Does a Hummingbird Nest Look Like?

Single egg in hummingbird nest

At first glance, a hummingbird’s nest might be mistaken for a small clump of leaves or a knot of wood. This is because such nests blend seamlessly into their surroundings, often mimicking the color and texture of tree branches.

Yet, keep in mind that hummingbird nests vary widely among breeds. Below is a list of some features you may want to look for when trying to identify the nest of a particular hummingbird species:

  • Rufous Hummingbird: Primarily, Rufous Hummingbirds excel in concealment. They often nest in a range of trees and plants. In particular, they favor the drooping lower branches of maples, oaks, pines, and poplars.
  • Anna’s Hummingbird: Anna’s Hummingbirds are known for their early nesting habits. They start with a basic platform in December, and then the nest is gradually built up as the season progresses.
  • Calliope Hummingbird: Unique in their approach, Calliope Hummingbirds construct multiple nests atop one another, sometimes using a conifer cone as a base.
  • Ruby-throated Hummingbird: Ruby-throated Hummingbirds construct their nests on slanted twigs or branches. To be specific, they use spider silk for attachment and disguise the exterior with greenish-gray lichens to blend in.
  • Black-chinned Hummingbird: Black-chinned Hummingbird nests look like deep cups, often with inward-curving rims.
  • Broad-tailed Hummingbird: Broad-tailed Hummingbirds are creatures of habit. They are notable for returning to the same nesting site each year to raise their babies.
  • Blue-throated Hummingbird: Uniquely, Blue-throated Hummingbirds frequently set their nests on electrical wires.
  • Costa’s Hummingbird: Costa’s Hummingbirds form small communities, with multiple nests often found within a close range of each other at favored sites.
  • Broad-billed Hummingbird: Interestingly, Broad-billed Hummingbirds display their adaptability by sometimes choosing to build their loosely structured nests on clotheslines.
  • Rivoli’s Hummingbird: Rivoli’s Hummingbirds stand out from other North American hummingbirds by constructing the largest and highest nests.

As you can see, hummingbirds have different tastes in terms of putting together their homes. However, all of them share a common goal: to provide shelter and protection for their young.

How Big Is a Hummingbird Nest?

A hummingbird nest is incredibly small, typically measuring just between 1 and 2 inches in diameter. This compact size is astonishingly similar to that of ping-pong balls, walnuts, or golf balls.

Yet, despite their tiny stature, these nests are constructed to accommodate the bird’s needs. They are perfectly sized for the smallest of birds, like hummingbirds and their eggs.

Where Do Hummingbirds Make Their Nests?

Two eggs in a hummingbird nest on a mossy branch

Hummingbirds commonly build their nests on slender branches of deciduous trees and in dense shrubs. These locations, usually 10 to 40 feet above the ground, provide an ideal balance of visibility and protection.

However, it should be noted that they also make use of man-made structures like windbreaks of buildings and lampposts, demonstrating their adaptability.

Fun Fact: Interestingly, some hummingbirds strategically position their nests near hawk habitats. This is a clever survival tactic, as the presence of hawks deters jays, which are significant predators of hummingbird nests.

What Are Hummingbird Nests Made Of?

Hummingbird nests are made from a fascinating assortment of natural materials. To be exact, mosses, lichens, tiny bird feathers, grasses, barks, and leaves are commonly used.

These materials are then woven together with spider web silk, which adds strength and flexibility to the structure. To back this up, a 2005 study in Argentina observed the Green‐backed Firecrown and White‐sided Hillstar species.

Researchers noted that these birds primarily used mosses with falcate leaves intertwined with spider web silk for the main structural components. This mix forms a durable yet lightweight base for the nest.

For camouflage, the outer layer of their nests often features mimetic materials like leprose lichens, spider cocoons, feathers, and animal hairs. This wise tactic helps them integrate easily into their surroundings.

Then, the researchers also noticed that the nests’ interiors were lined with soft materials like pappi, additional spider webs, and even manufactured cotton.

How Do Hummingbirds Build Their Nests?

Hummingbird sitting in nest

The construction of a hummingbird nest is an exclusive task performed by female hummingbirds. They start by crafting a soft, downy cup from fluffy plant materials, laying the foundation for the nest.

Next, the females strengthen this base by weaving in moss, which they bind together with strands of spider web. This approach creates a robust structure that’s capable of withstanding various environmental factors.

For the final touches, the inside of the nest is lined with downy materials like tiny feathers and animal fur, which ensures a cozy space for the eggs.

The exterior is then cleverly camouflaged with lichen flakes, making the nest nearly invisible to predators and passersby.

You can watch this short clip to see how hummingbirds intricately build their nests:

Hummingbird Builds Tiny Nest

How Long Do Hummingbirds Take to Build Their Nests?

Building a nest is a quick process for hummingbirds. As a matter of fact, they typically take about 7 to 10 days to complete the process. Yet, some often finish the task in less than a week, which showcases their efficiency.

Do Hummingbirds Reuse Their Nests?

Adult hummingbird feeding two chicks in a nest on a branch

Typically, hummingbirds do not reuse their nests from previous seasons. Instead, they often return to the same general nesting site, building a new perch each time.

An interesting example involves the Blue-throated Hummingbird in the Chiricahua Mountains. A particular cave in this area has been a favored nesting site for these birds.

To be specific, a blog shared a story about a 50-year-old photo of a Blue-throated Hummingbird in this cave.

When researchers revisited the site, they discovered that a Blue-throated female was still using the same nesting site, which highlighted the birds’ loyalty to their preferred locations.

How Long Do Hummingbird Babies Stay in the Nest?

Hummingbird eggs undergo an incubation period of 15 to 18 days, during which the mother diligently keeps them warm and safe. This initial phase is crucial for the development of the chicks inside the eggs.

Once the eggs hatch, the newborns enter the fledgling stage. Then, they remain in the safety of the nest for about 18 to 28 days.

During this critical period, they grow and develop the necessary skills for independent life outside the nest.

Fun Fact: Hummingbird dads are known to spend very little time with their young. It’s the mother who single-handedly takes on the responsibilities of nesting, incubating, and brooding.

How Rare Is It to See a Hummingbird Nest?

Hummingbird feeding chick in a lichen covered nest

Spotting a hummingbird nest is a very rare occurrence. It is exceptionally small, much like the eggs and the birds themselves, which makes it challenging to spot.

Additionally, hummingbird nests are expertly camouflaged within their surroundings. This further decreases the likelihood of them being noticed.

Last spring, while hiking, I spotted a tiny nest in a tree. I almost missed it because it blended with the bark and leaves.

When I looked closer, I saw a hummingbird sitting on two tiny white eggs not much bigger than peas. It flew off quickly, probably worried I would harm its babies.

The nest was cleverly woven together with spider webs and moss to keep the eggs safe and hidden.

Pro Tip: To find a hummingbird nest, look for the flowers and plants that these birds prefer. Then, watch for a female bird with your binoculars and follow its flight path. It will likely lead you right to its nest.

What to Do If You Find a Hummingbird Nest

If you find a hummingbird nest, leave it undisturbed. Observing nests from a distance is advisable to avoid disrupting the natural behavior of these wild birds in their habitat.

It is also crucial to keep in mind that it is illegal to touch, relocate, or remove an active bird nest in the United States.

Yet, if a hummingbird nest appears to be abandoned or has fallen to the ground, contact a wildlife expert. They are trained to handle such situations and can provide the necessary care or intervention.

How to Attract Hummingbirds to Nest

Finger pointing to a hummingbird nest with egg

To attract hummingbirds for nesting, start by planting native flowering plants in your yard. Opt for varieties like bee balm, trumpet honeysuckle, and hummingbird sage. These plants provide the nectar that hummingbirds need for energy.

In addition, arrange similar plants together and select species that bloom at different times. This ensures a consistent supply of flowers throughout the year, making your garden an appealing destination for hummingbirds.

Further, leave some sticks and small branches on bushes and trees. These provide natural perches and materials for hummingbirds to build their nests.

Finally, note that these birds enjoy frequent bathing, often in small droplets on leaves. Incorporating a constant water source, such as a drip fountain, can make your yard even more attractive to them.

So, what do you think about hummingbird nests? Do you have any questions about them? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!

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