It's Hummer Nesting Time

February 05, 2013  •  12 Comments

Time for a new generation of the circle of life.


On a sunny Sunday morning I set out to explore a local bike trail in search of wildlife to photograph. I looked to my right, then looked to my left, trying to decide which way to go, but something pulled me straight ahead, off the trail where I would have never thought to go. I discovered a little valley area with a stream running through it. I immediately heard all the hummingbird activity (the males have been showing off for weeks now).

I walked up to the stream, looked up, and there was a female Anna's pulling at spider webbing high up on a tree. Bingo! They are nesting! I saw her fly into a bush that was right in front of me (across the stream). And there was the unobstructed nest, at a perfect level to shoot it at. Pinch me!
I crossed the stream to get a close up look at the nest. What a master builder Mama is. The nest looked complete and ready to go, although Mama was very active with the finishing touches. She was applying the last of the spider webbing when I got there. She would wrap the webs around the outside of the nest.

Anna Hummingbirds use spider webbing to bind their nests. It allows the nest to expand as the babies grow.

Next, she made several installations of the interior bedding layer. Beaks full of fluffy stuff, only the best for her babies.

Anna Anna Anna She would put the nesting material down at the bottom.

Anna Then she would stomp it down with her feet. Stomp, stomp, stomp, stomp.

Anna She was very meticulous, paying attention to every detail. Putting every last piece in its place.

Anna Back with more. I was so glad to see how much she was reinforcing the bottom of the nest. The first hummingbird nest I ever photographed was not built very well. The entire bottom fell out, the poor babies had no where to sit. One eventually fell to the ground! Fortunately I was there and rescued him. These babies won't have that problem.

Anna Some more stomping the nest bottom, some more attention to the outside.

Anna She would make a circular motion around the entire outside of the nest. Making sure everything was where it should be.

Anna After each nest building session she would stretch then fly off. This went on all afternoon.

Anna No home would be complete with out the decorative details!

Anna Applying the moss to the nest.

Anna A few more nips and tucks, here and there, and it's done!

Anna Nest building can be sticky business. Birds clean their beaks by rubbing them on tree branches.

Anna She had spider webbing and fluff stuck to her tail.

Anna And on her wing tips.

Anna Gotta clean the beak.

Anna Anna's hummingbird (Calypte anna) building a nest, incubating eggs, raising chicks, the entire circle of life of a hummer. Anna

Time for a break. Which, for a hummer, is about a minute.


Congratulations Mama on a job well done!



One week later... There are now two eggs in the nest!

Anna I discovered this nest on February 3rd, ​coincidentally on the same day Mama finished building it (can take a couple weeks to build a nest). I went back the next day, she was away from the nest most of the time I was there. We had rain after that. Hummingbirds lay two eggs, one day apart. My guess is that Mama laid her eggs on the 5th and 6th.


Even though the eggs were probably laid on different days, both eggs will usually hatch on the same day because the incubation process is delayed until the second egg is laid.

The diameter of this nest is about the same as a quarter. The eggs look like tic tacs.

Here is some interesting information about the nesting process:


While I was there on the 10th, Mama left the nest only a few times to get a quick bite to eat, then she would come right back. She will incubate the eggs for 16-18 days, keeping them at a constant temperature of 96 degrees.

Look at that beautiful nest. Mama is definitely a master ​architect and builder!



Anna Checking in on Mama... This was my second visit in the past week. Both times she was dutifully incubating. She sits on the nest continuously, leaving only for quick meals. We're getting some rain this week, but should be sunny and nice for the anticipated hatching, still expected on the 21st (rain on the 19th, will check on the 20th :-)

Notice how she has added to the nest. There is now another layer of camouflage pieces around the rim. Look at how well she blends in with the nest, and into the surroundings.

The outside nest diameter appears to be about the size of a 50 cent piece, inside diameter probably close to a quarter. The eggs are still tucked away, cozy and warm.

Mama is a very experienced mother!




Brrrrrr... Last night was rainy, windy and 45 degrees. The sun rose this morning to bring a week of clear weather ahead. Mama and the eggs must have breezed through the night, all is well on this sunny but cool afternoon. No hatchlings yet.

Anna Once again, I must compliment Mama on her artistic flair while truly defining the word "camouflage": Protective coloring or another feature that conceals an animal and enables it to blend into its surroundings.

Anna For scale... The black part of the key is about 1.25 inches square.


Will you look at that... The babies have received their first flower!

It must not be long now...



Morning Update: another cold night and chilly morning. At 8am it is in the mid-40s. When the weather is cooler, it can take the eggs longer to hatch. Today is the 16th day, they have up to 18 days in warm weather, I'm guessing the cold is going to keep it from happening today...

Afternoon Update: no news. Of course I checked the nest during the only time it rained the entire day, with the most rain falling as soon as I got down there. 15 minutes before or after, nice and sunny.

Here are some videos of other nests:

A hummer built her nest in the arm of a garage door opener. These eggs took 20 days to hatch, inside, in June. This family kept their garage door open for over six weeks!

This video shows mama building her nest. Bringing in the stuffing and stomping it down, just as I described above. At 1:35 it shows her attending to the outside of the nest, ​circling around with her beak.

Here is the entire nesting process: This is a *great* video and well worth the eight minutes!

Anna Meanwhile... anxiously waiting here...



Anna No babies yet.  Mom doing her thing. Talk about bed rest... Three weeks sitting this still, for a hummer, can't imagine!



Anna OMGosh... can't be long now... look at the shells, they sure look ready... Looks like two little crack marks in the bottom egg. I can't get back there today (photo taken around 2:30pm), hope they wait till tomorrow!

To Be Continued...


Gallery Photos:


Nelson Guzman(non-registered)
Kim, this documentary is amazing and so is the photography. Very complete, a job well done! I agree that it should be published.
Kim Michaels
I had to break up this nest story into two posts:

BC - Before Chicks ~ Nest building till day before hatching.

AD - Awesome Day ~ From day of birth to fledge.

It's Hummer Nesting Time

Raising Hummer Chicks

If you have trouble viewing the videos, turn off the HD.

Thank you!
John Chan(non-registered)
Simply awesome!!
Can't wait to see the hawk's nest you will document next...
This is amazing! You are gifted with great eye for photography and you in turn were gifted with this golden opportunity. Thank you so much for sharing and we look forward to the next chapter.
Richard White(non-registered)
Beautiful Kim!

I swear that the affinity hummingbirds have for nesting near you is no coincidence; as my Native American friends would say, "They are your power bird!"

Keep up the good work!
No comments posted.



January (2) February (2) March (1) April May June July August September (1) October November December
January February March April May June July August September October November December
January February March April May June July August September October November December
January February March April May June July August September October November December
January February March April May June July August September October November December
January February March April May June July August September October November December
January February March April May June July August September October November December
January February March April May June July August September October November December
January February March April May June July August September October November December