- Hummingbird breeding season depends on the area they live in. It may begin as early as March in warmer climates or as late as July in colder climates.
- Female hummingbirds first build their nest before mating. After mating, it takes around 24 to 30 hours for the bird to lay an egg.
- It typically takes hummingbird eggs around two weeks to hatch.
- Once they hatch, the mother protects hummingbird chicks for 1-2 months.
The hummingbird is the smallest bird in North America, with some species weighing as little as .1 ounces. Over 330 species of hummingbirds live in the Western hemisphere. These little birds delight us with their fast-beating wings and colorful feathers.
It’s hard to imagine how tiny baby hummingbirds and hummingbird eggs must be since full-grown adults are already so small. The lifecycle of hummingbirds, from their mating season to nest-building to egg laying to the hatching of babies is a fascinating one. Here’s when to expect all of these stages of a hummingbird’s life to occur.
When Is Hummingbird Breeding Season?
The time of year that hummingbirds begin the process of nesting, mating, laying eggs, and having babies varies by location, according to the American Bird Conservancy.
Breeding season can begin as soon as March in the southern United States or as late as July in cooler parts of the country. The process of creating baby hummingbirds involves many steps. Here we will take a look at everything that goes into these tiny baby birds hatching.
Female hummingbirds prepare for the arrival of their babies before they even begin mating. Of course, their first essential task is to build a nest, a task that takes them about a week. The tiny birds build their nests on slender tree branches 10-40 feet above the ground.
Hummingbirds use a variety of materials to make artful, tiny nests. They first collect spider webs to attach the nests to the branch of a tree. Then hummingbirds gather soft plant materials such as thistledown or dandelion. The female may also camouflage the outside of the nest with lichen.
The result is a small, safe, and well-insulated space for hummingbird eggs. Typically the nests are only about two inches across and one inch deep. Hummingbird nests have also been found in unlikely places such as inside a flower hanging basket or on top of a porch light or basketball net.
Hummingbird mating season generally begins in very early spring when the tiny creatures return from their winter migration. The species are able to begin mating once they are a year old.
Male hummingbirds have brightly colored jewel-tone feathers to attract females. They also put on quite a show as part of the mating process.
Some species might perform a kind of mid-air dance and sing. Others may fly up to 60 feet in the air and execute a “courtship dive” to impress the female, according to Wisconsin Pollinators.
Though the process of attracting a mate involves quite a bit of showmanship, sex for these birds only lasts 3-5 seconds. After mating, male hummingbirds don’t stick around.
When Do Hummingbirds Lay Eggs?
As you likely know, hummingbirds lay eggs rather than give birth to live young. After mating it takes about 24 to 30 hours for an egg to start developing in the female hummingbirds body.
Most hummingbirds lay their eggs in the spring and summer, but females may lay eggs up to three times a year. Female hummingbirds lay their eggs in twos, spaced one to two days apart.
The tiny white eggs are smaller than a jelly bean and very fragile and vulnerable. The American Bird Conservancy speculates that there is an important reason hummingbird eggs are always such a light color.
While darker-colored eggs are more protected from UV rays, they are more susceptible to heat. The opposite is true for lighter-colored eggs. Hummingbird eggs may have evolved to be so light in color out of a necessity to stay cool over UV protection.
Female hummingbirds watch over their nests closely keeping them at a warm temperature of around 96°F. The eggs typically hatch after 2-3 weeks. Both eggs hatch together, despite the fact that they are laid at different times.
Baby hummingbirds are known as nestlings, hatchlings, or chicks. They are born with their eyes closed and have pink or gray skin and very few feathers, according to the American Bird Conservancy.
Newly hatched hummingbirds are helpless and rely completely on their mothers. In fact, the hatchling’s legs are so small that they can’t even stand.
Mother hummingbirds look for food for their babies several times a day. The hatchlings need both insects and nectar as a part of their diet. Like many species of birds, hummingbirds feed their hatchlings by regurgitating into their mouth
Hatchling hummingbirds are helpless at first, but after a relatively short period of time, they can function on their own. Here’s a look at their maturation timeline:
- Hummingbirds first open their eyes about 9-10 days after hatching. They will also sprout pin-like feathers
- Two weeks after hatching, hummingbirds begin exercising their wings in preparation for when they will eventually take flight
- After three weeks, hummingbird hatchlings should have a full set of feathers.
- After 1-2 months (depending on the species of hummingbird) the hatchlings are ready to take flight and fend for themselves.
Learning to fly is a harrowing process for baby hummingbirds. These little creatures are not yet skilled at flight. Fledgling hummingbirds may end up on the ground where they are at risk of predators.
However, mother hummingbirds will stay with their fledglings for a few days while they get used to flying. They will also show their babies how to find insects and nectar before the now-grown hummingbirds head off on their own.
Hummingbird wings beat at incredible speeds and their unique anatomy allows them to fly forward, backward, and upside down. They can also hover in place, which allows them to drink nectar from flowers while remaining in the air. When in flight, some species of hummingbirds can reach speeds of up to 60 mph.
How Long Do Hummingbirds Live?
Hummingbirds’ lifespan varies by species, but on average they live around 3-5 years. However, some of these little creatures have been known to live as long as 10 years. These birds also face a variety of predators, from the moment they are eggs on to adulthood.
It’s probably no surprise to learn that animals like snakes and cats prey on hummingbirds. A snake’s diet often includes various types of birds and cats are known for toying with these flying creatures. It’s probably also not a shock to find that larger birds will kill and eat hummingbirds.
However, hummingbirds are so small that they have some unlikely predators. According to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, one of the most common predators of hummingbirds is the Chinese mantis, which can measure up to five inches long. In comparison, hummingbirds usually measure around 3-5 inches in length.
Spiders are another surprising threat to hummingbirds. The tiny birds may become trapped in the webs of larger species, such as the golden silk orb-weaver. While some large South American spiders may consume hummingbirds, sometimes the birds die from accidentally becoming trapped in the webs that spiders typically use to catch insects.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/Sen Yang
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