Hummingbirds Spring Into Action
Claiming, Defending, Courting, and Nesting

(Back to Overview)

Spring Arrival
The male hummingbird arrives on the breeding grounds before the female. Instinct urges him to do one thing: set up a territory! What does he need? How does he start?

Choosing a Territory
The male hummingbird needs to find a place where there are nectar-rich flowers and protective trees or shrubs. The territory he chooses will help determine whether a female hummer will choose him as a mate.

Hummingbird Habitat
A hummingbird's territory could be as big as a football field. The area could also be smaller with a neighboring male choosing a spot as close as 50 feet away.

Keeping Out the Competition
The perimeter of the territory is the most challenging to defend. Scientists have discovered that rufous hummers would drain flower nectar from the edge of their territory each morning. Any competing hummers would find empty flowers and be less interested in the territory.

Defending the Territory
When intruders come into the territory they are fiercely chased off. The hummingbird male might even claim a feeder as their territory and spend much of the day perched nearby to defend it.

Females Arrive
Male hummingbirds show off their bright throat feathers, or gorgets, to dazzle the females. Rubythroats have red gorgets, rufous have orange ones. The courtship begins with some amazing acrobatic skills!

Courtship Flight
With the female watching, the male hummer puts on a show that is hard to ignore. He flies up nearly 50 feet in the air, facing the sun, so his irridescent gorget glistens. Next, he dives at 40 miles per hour, then pulls up making a u-shaped pattern. His wings beat up to 200 times per second during this courtship dive.

Nesting Begins
If courtship is successful, the female selects her mate and begins building the nest. She does all the work of building the nest and raising the young. The male hummingbird flies off to choose the next territory and another courtship begins.

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