Hummingbird on Board

Updates: First egg hatches, May 24, 2010 (photo at bottom)

She built her nest in the fig tree in the yard. She’s tiny, even for a hummingbird, less than 3 inches long, head to tail (but without the beak). Distinguishing one hummingbird species from another, particularly the females, who don’t have the colored feathers at the throat, is a mystery to me. I think she is an Anna’s hummingbird, maybe a Costa’s. There are many species of hummingbirds here in Arizona, so I’m not the best one to ask.

The hummingbird nest is about the size of a ping-pong ball cut in half.

The nest is in an exposed fork of the fig tree. It’s about the size of a ping-pong ball cut in half. It’s made of spider webs, leaf bits and tiny plant parts.  My cats have no interest in the hummingbirds, as the larger Broad-Tailed hummingbirds routinely chase the cats inside by dive-bombing them. The three feeders encourage birds, and the cats are no longer interested.  As the heat increases, the cats want to spend less and less time outside, so I’m not concerned.

Hummingbird on nest.

The eggs are the size of a coffee bean, and there are two of them. Laid sometime around May 6, I’m expecting a hatch date of May 22 and a fledge date of 3 to 4 weeks later. The birds are born helpless, almost bald and with closed eyes. Their eyes open around 11 or 12 days after hatching. They grow fast, and two birds in a nest will test the durability of mom’s talent. Spiderwebs stretch, and so do hummingbird nests. As the birds grow, the nest stretches. At birth, baby hummingbirds instinctively know not to soil the nest. They push their rear ends out over the nest and projectile poop. It’s funny to see, and amazing to think they are born with such good aim.

Each egg is the size of a coffee bean.

My big concern is that the female built her nest in the fig trees in May. Figs are ripe in early to mid-June, and attract predatory birds–crows, grackles, and starlings. These birds will eat a hummingbird egg or nestling, and I’m concerned for the nest. This morning, while mom was out feeding, I trimmed some of the figs away from the nest. I’ll do another trim this evening, when she’s gone again.

I’ll keep you posted on this page as the summer goes on.

Another view of mom hummingbird on nest.

MAY 24, 2010: First egg hatches. The photo is blurry, but it’s the best I could do, quick before I got dive bombed! Chick is facing head toward the bottom of the photo. They are born naked, with a racing stripe of fuzz on their backbone. The beak is very short and will grow longer as they get older. It will take about a month to fledge.

Update: May 28. First photos of both chicks in nest and egg-size comparison.

Quinn McDonald is a naturalist, writer and raw-art journaler who lives in the Phoenix area. Her book “Raw Art Journaling: Making Meaning, Making Art will be published by North Light books in June of 2011.