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Build a Hummingbird Nest!

Background
Look closely at the hummingbird nest in the photographs. Imagine the skills that went into building it, weaving the tiny materials together so carefully and precisely!

Photos Courtesy Dorothy Edgington.

For a hummingbird to keep her babies alive until they fledge, her nest must serve all of the following purposes:

  1. Insulation to hold the mother's heat tightly against the eggs, and to keep rain and cold air from leaking in.
  2. A strong bed for the mother to spend all her time while she's incubating the eggs.
  3. A stretchable crib big enough to hold two nestlings that are growing as big as their mother.
  4. A soft baby blanket to rest on without any sharp points that could puncture or crack an egg.
  5. A camouflaged hideout that is difficult for predators to find.

A hummingbird uses these materials to build her nest:

  • Lichens and bud scales
  • Thistle and dandelion down
  • Spider silk

Look at the materials the hummer uses and consider the purposes of her nest. Which materials are most important for:
Insulation? A strong bed? A stretchable crib? A soft blanket? A camouflaged hideout?

Mother hummingbird looks for a nest site that is sheltered above by leafy branches and usually open to the ground beneath. She picks a fairly stout branch that slants downward from the tree. The twigs may be at least an inch wide but she usually finds a place where they fork, so they're a little wider at the bottom. Nests have been found anywhere from six to 50 feet above ground, but the average is 10 to 20 feet.

Your job in this activity is to find and then use materials to make a nest that can serve all the nest purposes listed above. But YOUR nest needs to be on a bigger scale than a hummingbird's because the eggs in your nest will be chicken eggs!


Activity: Student Nest-Building

Materials needed:

  • Small pieces of string or yarn, broken peanut shells, little torn pieces of dull green and brown construction paper
  • Rubber bands (cut so they are each a straight strand)
  • Little tufts from cotton balls or cotton batting
  • Glue
  • Two chicken eggs to put in each finished nest


Directions:

1. Compare the list of materials we're going to use with the materials a hummingbird uses, and think of the purposes of a hummingbird nest. Now match the Hummer Nest-Building Materials with the Student Nest-Building Materials. (Hint: One of the Hummer materials does the same work as TWO of the student materials.)

2. Using the Student Nest-Building Materials, do your best to construct a nest that can hold, hide, protect, and insulate two chicken eggs. Send us pictures of your class's favorites!

3. Take turns hiding your nests outside. Have a contest to see whose nest is hidden the best!


Discuss:
1. How does this exercise compare with the job a real hummingbird must do to build her nest?
2. What does a hummer look for when deciding where to build her nest?


Try This! Scavenger Hunt and Journaling Question

  • Have a scavenger hunt around your school to gather all the real materials a hummingbird would need to construct a nest. Can you fashion these materials into a walnut-sized nest that looks like a real hummingbird nest? Can you find any suitable places where you think a real hummingbird might build her nest if she lived by your school?


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