Nest & Eggs #1

The questions below come in part from visitors who leave messages on the Operation RubyThroat website. Please send your own questions to QUESTIONS, or post them on the Guestbook page.

1. I have lots of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds at my feeders. Why can't I find a nest?

Photo © Bill Hilton Jr.

One reason the nest of the Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) is hard to find is because it is so small (above); it is also well camouflaged with an outer layer of lichens. Although it may appear obvious on this naked pine twig, when it contained eggs and young the nest was hidden by pine needles and cones. Several western U.S. hummingbird species build their nests semi-communally and in the open, making them easier to spot. The best way to find a hummer nest is to wait for the female to lead you to it. This may not work, however, since the nest can be up to 1.5km or more from a good feeding area.

Among Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, nests may be in hardwoods or evergreens from about one to 20 meters (three to 60 feet) from the ground. Often they are situated in the crotch of in an outer, down-turned branch overhanging water, but there are many exceptions. Some of the western U.S. hummingbirds build frequently in the open on fence rails, porch lights, and other human-made objects.

Perhaps the most effective to way to find a nest is to watch a female hummingbird in spring when she is gathering spiderwebs for her nest and then try to follow her to the nesting site.

2. Can you describe the construction technique used by Ruby-throated Hummingbirds to build their nests? Specifically, how are the lichens attached? Are they woven into the body of the nest or attached in some other way? (Thanks to Billie Green of Thousand Oaks, California, for submitting this question to Operation RubyThroat.)

3. How long does it take for hummingbird eggs to hatch, and how long are the chicks in the nest? (Thanks to John Phillips of Santa Cruz, California, for submitting this question to Operation RubyThroat.)
4. Will hummingbirds use nest boxes?

5. Do hummingbirds re-use the same nest?

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