By Eilene Lyon
Under our west-facing deck, I have strung some colored lights. The patio below is furnished as an outdoor living room with loveseat, coffee table and two rocking, swivel chairs. The fence lizards love lounging on my furniture, therefore I initially credited them with the mess of poop all over the cushions.
But then, as I was cleaning up one day, or maybe filling my watering can, I chanced to look up and wonder what that ball of stuff was clinging to the wiring for the lights. Wasp nest? No, definitely not. Oh my gosh! It was a hummingbird nest I spied.
I’m willing to bet there is a fair amount of Sterling hair woven into this darling little cup. I noted a hummingbird collecting some of his hair off the ground while we were camping a couple weeks ago. The nests are typically made from downy plant fibers and spider webs (plenty of those on the dangling lights). They also add shingles of lichen on the outside.
At first, peeking at it from under the deck stairs, I thought it was empty—the babies having fledged already. But the mess of mama hummer poo and fecal sacs kept coming.
A week later I noticed patiently waiting beaks poking up out of the nest. Two young’uns are in there after all! It was several more days before I finally spied mama in action. She’s much too cagey to let me get her picture, though, even though the nest is right outside my office window.
On Sunday, I watched from the window as one of the nestlings stretched its wings, eyes open for a change. (I can look directly down on the babies through a crack in the deck, too, though the photos are blurry.)
Black-chinned hummingbird females do all the work to raise the young. Males are essentially sperm donors. The females tend to nest near valley and canyon floors, while the males stay upslope. (Both sexes swarm our feeders, though.) A favored habitat in western Colorado is piñon-juniper woodland—which our property has in spades.
Incubation takes about two weeks and the nestling phase about three. Once these two fledge, they will learn to forage without help, but will require mom to help feed them the first week. Sometimes a female will breed twice in a season and may start a second nest while still waiting for the first to fledge.1
These nestlings seem to fill the tiny space to overflowing already, so I expect they’ll be out by next Sunday!
- Lyon, Eilene. “Black-chinned hummingbird.” The Second Colorado Breeding Bird Atlas. Lynn Wickersham, editor. Denver: Colorado Bird Atlas Partnership, 2016, 282–3. ↩