Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Mama Ruby-throated Hummingbird Sitting on her Nest

Walking on the trail today, I looked up just in time to see a tiny bit of movement in the leaves. Something was there. Something small. I put the binocs up to my eyes and spun the focusing dial slowly until a tiny lichen-covered nest topped by a lovely female Red-throated Hummingbird came into view. So tiny and sweet, she had decorated her nest with a beautiful display of lichens, locking everything in place with spider web silk. Although not visible, the inside of her nest would be lined with plant down. If you look closely, you can see the down from a dandelion seed stuck in the spider web at the base of the nest.

(Click photo to enlarge to see the detail in the lichens.)

Right now, at home as I write this, a storm is rolling through. Rain is pouring in torrents and thunder and lightning are reminding me it’s spring. I think about the little female sitting tight on her nest protecting her eggs from the wind and rain and am very glad I was lucky enough to spot that tiny movement and catch a glimpse of her world of tiny perfection.

Beak Bit
The female builds her nest after the male finds a suitable location. She collects strands of spider web silk and wraps them around plant material and lichens. The lichens adhere to the sticky cobweb as the female pushes the small flakes into the silk using her bill. She also traps bits of lichens under strands of silk she has woven around and around the nest. Very small, the nest is only one and a half inches across, a hummingbird itself, being only three to three and three quarters inches long. She usually lays two white, bean-sized eggs and incubates them for about 14 days, sitting on them 60-80% of the day. After the eggs hatch, the male often will fly off and find another mate, taking no part in rearing the young.

35 comments:

The Early Birder said...

During a trip to High Island, Texas Anita would often walk the streets watching these birds feeding in everyones gardens whislt I was birding in woodlads & getting eaten alive!
I'm facinated by the art of nest building. Thanks for sharing Kelly.

Teri C said...

Fabulous find and beautiful photo. I love watching them when I find a the rare nest.

Roy said...

Hummingbird nests have always fascinated me. I'll have to keep an eye out here; we certainly have enough lichen around!

Good catch, Kelly!

holdingmoments said...

I never knew they were so small. An amazing structure for such a tiny bird. Incredible!
Thanks for sharing all that information Kelly.

Shellmo said...

She builds such a beautiful nest - glad you were able to give us this peek!!!

Montanagirl said...

Great post, and lovely photo, Kelly. The Hummers only pass through here when they migrate back south. So, they arrive here the end of July usually. Sometimes I see them up into September. Wish they nested here, but alas, that wonderful phase takes place somewhere else.

Roy said...

What an astonishing little bird Kelly, great photo and thanks for sharing such a marvel.

nina at Nature Remains. said...

Wow, that seems so early!
The nest I watched last year hatched on July 4th--I guess it all depends on the success in meeting the right mate, finding site, successes,....?

Kelly said...

Frank...Anita was probably seeing several different types of hummers also. We only have Ruby-throated Hummers here, but depending on where you are in Texas, you can see quite a few different species.

Teri...Thanks...this is the first hummingbird nest I've ever spotted. I hope I find another soon!

Roy...The nests are so pretty. I hope you can find one...

Keith...thanks...they are so tiny. Until you get used to their presence, sometimes they sound like big insects buzzing past you!

Shelley...thank you!!

Montanagirl...hummers for you are like most of the warbers for us. Although we do have a few warblers that stay for the summer and nest.

Roy...thank you. Everyone anticipates their arrival, putting out nectar for them to sip. My backyard hummers are not yet here, though.

Nina...I started seeing them on the trail in March, but they still haven't arrived at my house. I read some nest early and might raise a second brood, while others nest later. I loved looking at the photos on your site. You were so lucky they were so close to your house!

Kallen305 said...

What an incredible find and I love the picture. You must have been thrilled to have discovered it!

Laure Ferlita said...

To find a hummer's nest - with hummer in residence even! Girl, you are so incredibly fortunate. Color me green with envy! ;•)

Gorgeous photos and love the beak bit!

p.s. Must be raining all over the world - we're having storms as well. Power's been out over an hour.

Vickie said...

That is an incredible work of art created with so much diligence. Beautiful image and discovery.

Steve B said...

Cool! I saw my first Ruby-throat of the year today.

Alan said...

Wow! How cool is that. I hear that there tough to spot. Great job!
...didn't know that the male abandoned the family after the eggs hatched. Interesting...

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Kelly said...

Kim...thank you. Yes...my first hummer nest ever!

Laure...thank you...I hope I can go back and find it. I marked it in my head. I'd love to see some baby hummers! It's still raining here...and our phones are out.

Vickie...you said it. How birds can construct these tiny beautiful nests using only their bills is amazing...so much time and effort. it's wonderful. Thank you!

Steve...Yeah! Bring on more...I love them!

Alan...Thank you. I was so lucky to spot it. I just noticed a tiny bit of movement and stopped to check...and there it was!

Domonyi...thanks for dropping by. It's always great to meet new blogger friends!

Nature As Is said...

Kelly very beautiful shot!! reminds me on mine :) But the only difference is that we don't get Ruby-throated Hummingbirds here. I wish we did. Oh and thanks for asking me how I'm doing...left a comment on my blog about that. Crista :)

Nick S said...

That's lovely Kelly :-)
PS. I love the new banner on the top of the page.

Jayne said...

How special that you got to see her on her sweet nest!

Kelly said...

Crista, Nick and Jayne...thank you! Nick...he was sitting in a tree just behind the Tufted Titmice's nest. I didn't think it would turn out because the shadows were deep, but it did with a cool effect!

ShySongbird said...

What a beautiful post, such a fascinating little bird and the nest construction is truly amazing. NAUGHTY dad to go off with another lady and leave mum to do all the hard work!

Looking back through previous posts I really am stunned by your wonderful photos.

TheWritersPorch said...

Kelly..thank you for coming by The Porch! I am working on "the book ".
Hubby and I were just on the back porch watching the hummers and wondering about their nesting habits, I come in and see your post! This is why I love blogging!!

~ Carol ~

Uncommon Depth said...

You are amazing for spotting this. And even more amazing for getting such a pretty picture of it. I have always wanted to see a hummingbird nest!

Mary said...

What a tiny bit of wonder! That little nest and mama might actually weather the storm better then us "big things"....if her limb is strong. Adorable shot...what a good eye you have!

Andrea said...

Thank you so much for sharing your birds. I lack the equipment and the patience to take good bird pics. I love that there are people blogging about their fascination and love of nature. A~

Ginnymo said...

Awww! How cute that photo is Kelly!! I sure hope the wind and rain don't ruin it for them. It's wickedly windy and rainy here today. As I watch all the trees swaying and bending in the wind, I worry about all those little creatures.

Kelly said...

Songbird...thank you! You made me laugh...he is a naughty little bird!

Carol...Serendipity at its best! I also have learned so much by reading other's blogs. Thank you for visiting...and I liked your blog too!

Roberta...I took 31 photos and only 1 was decent! I hope I can find it again... thanks!

Mary...she was on a strong limb. I couldn't help but think of her swaying around in the wind and rain...lighting and thunder all around, but her nest is strong and you're right...probably ounce for ounce it's way stronger than anything we can build.

Andrea...thank you for stopping by. I love photographing the birds and keep trying to get better...

Ginny...I'm just like you! Thinking about those little birds, but I know they will weather this storm just fine...(but she's so tiny and the wind and rain were so strong!) :-)

Ken Browne. said...

Hi Kelly.
You can't help but to feel for the little birds on the nest when the storms hit. she is a lovely little bird. I expect after the little ones are born and the males has done his bit he will be thinking about migrating, as I know that the males leave before the females and juveniles do..
I love your pictures of the Red Bellied Woodpecker.

Heather said...

I wish that mamma hummer the best of luck. She's so sweet on that nest. I have tracked down a BG Gnatcatcher nest that I'm going to try to photograph... once it stops RAINING! I always worry about the birds when the weather gets bad, especially during nesting season. One day it was pouring down rain and we got our Phoebe parents on camera, soaking wet. Poor things!

The Hidden Emerald said...

Wew..nice photo and information. Great!

hip chick said...

Wow!! that is so cool and interesting. I never realized how beautiful the nest of a hummingbird was.

Kelly said...

Ken...you might be right. I don't know. Another storm is moving in, so she has another night of wind and rain to endure.

Heather...Poor Mama Phoebe! As I just said in Ken's answer above, the rains are back...even tornado watches. Hopefully she's okay. I hope you can find your BG Gnatcher's nest.

Hidden Emerald...than you! ...and thanks for stopping by too.

hip chick...it's the first nest I've ever seen in person. it is so tiny and gorgeous. I didn't realize just how small they are.

Kelly said...

Keith, Laubaine and Abe...thank you. I do love those red feathers. Sort of hard to photograph and capture the true beautify. They are slightly faded on the screen. (Thanks, Abe...I wondered how you did that on your site.)

Hip Chick....so true. In the winter, the cardinal brightens many a day. When you see a flock of 20 or so in a tree, standing out bright against the snow, it almost takes your breath away!

Moria...thank you!!

Ginny...thanks. We have cardinals in our yard as well, but no nests. Hope you get to seem some babies again.

Warren...Yeah! Now we just have to slow down and enjoy. Thanks...I think the wagtails are very striking, but I got the feeling from everyone's descriptions they might be common.

Chris...Thanks Chris. You have a nice weekend too.

Jenny...Yeah! Thank you, and glad you stopped by. I did enjoy your blog. I'll be visiting yours as well.

Roy...thanks! I need to make sure Red makes a few more appearances.

Songbird...than you very much. It writes itself when nature inspires.

Paul...one of these days I'm going to take a little chair to the trail and really slow down...

Kathie...thanks! Yes, ma'am.....I always watch out for the babies. We need as many as we can get!

Carol said...

Oh Kelly ... Your hummer photos are gorgeous... breathtaking... I want to come back later today and read every post... I am so glad I started up with the bird posts...BPW. Carol

Doro said...

This is the neatest thing I've seen in a while. I would be interested to see such a nest, given that it can't be much over the size of a thimble (or shot glass more likely).