It is difficult to find a hummingbird’s nest, not because the nests are not in your area, but because they are so tiny and inconspicuous that they are often overlooked, Hummingbirds choose safe, sheltered locations for their nests, protected from sun, wind, rain or predators. The nest is built entirely by the females. The females often build their nests on slender descending branches of deciduous trees or shrubs. Nests are usually 10-40 feet above the ground. Nests have also been found in unique locations such as on wires or clotheslines, in porch lamps, etc.
The ruby-throated hummingbird uses spider silk, plant down and lichen in nest construction. This sticky, stretchy spider silk is extremely light and maneuverable. The stickiness helps hold nests tightly and securely against a twig and allows the nest to expand with the growing nestlings. As plant down is stuck to the spider web, the female shapes the nest with her body. Then she collects lichen to decorate, camouflage the outside of the nest. It takes 5-7 days to construct.
The eggs are about the size of a Tic-Tac with a thin papery shell. Unlike most birds, hummingbirds don’t have an “egg-tooth” to help them break out of the shell. The shell splits when the nestling gets too big for the shell.
It takes about 12-14 days for the chicks to hatch and another 18-22 to develop enough to fly. Then they stay in the area for a couple of weeks while their mother feeds them and they gain enough strength and skills to fly off on their own.
When they are hatched, the mother feeds them frequently by catching spiders and insects for their protein and some nectar or sugar water for hydration. Initially, the soft breeze from their mother’s triggers her young to raise their heads and open wide for a feeding. Later, her vocalizations become the trigger to alert them to a feeding.
They don’t fly until they can vocalize and sit on a branch. They have to develop the grasping muscles in their feet for perching, and they have to be able to vocalize so their mother can find them. When they do fledge, they will find a branch and sit on it while their mother brings them food. The feedings gradually get further apart and they start eating insects around them. Then they begin visiting flowers for nectar.