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Ruby-throated Hummingbird Nesting Phenology (Timing)

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In order to have Ruby-throated Hummingbirds in the future, hummers living today have to reproduce. This involves a LOT of critical steps! You'll see what we mean when you read this page!


Territorial Defense: 3-4 months
Both sexes sometimes chase other hummingbirds away from feeders and favorite flowers. But on the breeding grounds, male hummingbirds devote much more energy and time to territorial defense than females do. If food resources are good, two males may occupy territories as close as 15 meters apart; but if one male crosses the boundary, the other instantly chases him off. Although a male does not share the responsibilities for nesting and raising babies, his work in keeping other hummers off the territory is very important to ensure that the babies will have enough food. Males suffer higher mortality than females, so a male's devotion to this one task is apparently as much as he can invest in reproduction.


Nest Building: 5 - 10 days
Each female selects the nest site, gathers the nesting materials, and builds the nest entirely on her own. In southern areas where hummingbirds nest two or (very rarely) three times in a season, sometimes the female reuses a nest for her second brood.


Egg Laying: 1-3 days
The female lays 2 eggs. The second egg is laid 1 - 3 days after the first. Each egg weighs roughly 0.5 grams. (There is very little data about this.) Adult females weigh about 2.5 - 6 grams. Most breeding females are in between. The extreme weights usually happen just before migration, when the birds are very fat, and after long, exhausting migration flights.


Incubating Eggs: 12 - 14 days
The female begins incubating as soon as the first egg is laid. She is responsible for all the incubating. She sits on the eggs all through the night, and about 75% of the time during the day.


Brooding and Feeding Nestlings: 18 - 25 days
Immediately after the first baby hatches, the female incubates about 86% of the time during daylight. As the babies grow and require more and more food, the female broods them less and less. She stops brooding them when they're about 9 days old.

When the babies feel the wind from their mother's wings or hear her mew call, they open their mouths and beg for food. She feeds them by regurgitating nectar and insects into their mouths. As they grow, she starts carrying insects to them, using her beak.


Taking Care of Fledglings: 4 - 7 days
Once the young fledge from the nest, they may associate with their mother for up to a week, and she continues to feed them during this time. When they leave the nest, babies are generally much heavier than their mother. The babies lose weight until they get good at feeding themselves.


Try This! Activities
  1. Create a timeline showing the steps in hummingbird nesting.
  2. To see photos of a hummingbird nest and babies' growth, go to our day-by-day nest photos and challenge yourself with our observation questions:


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