Hummingbirds Growing up in My Garden
Hummingbirds nesting in our garden
This is the story of two baby hummingbirds growing up in my garden. The discovery came as an unexpected surprise which just blew me away. I stumbled upon a mossy wad of lichen and cotton fluffs with spiderweb all over it on one of my geranium hanging plants. It was well camouflaged and looked like a knot on one of the branches. This is why it went unnoticed during my weekly deadheading sessions in the garden. Nothing prepared me for what I was about to see after I climbed on a bench to take a closer look. My jaws dropped when I saw two jelly-bean sized eggs in the tiniest nest I have ever seen. I ran into the house, grabbed my camera and began to chronicle the day-to-day development of the baby hummers from egghood to flight.
Photo Credit: jlshernandez - All Rights Reserved.
A very special place to grow up - Location, location, location
This was the geranium hanging plant where the mother hummingbird chose to build its nest. There was nothing special about it except its close proximity to the hummingbird feeder. As you can see, the nest was well camouflaged amongst the flowers, green leaves and branches. It was sheltered by a trellis from direct sunlight, rain and heavy wind. But most of all, it was hidden away from the larger birds in our garden who may snatch the eggs from the nest.
The First Sighting - There it is. Can you see it? - The spiderweb was a dead giveaway
This was the close-up view of the hummingbird's nest from where I was standing on the deck while deadheading the hanging plants. The nest could easily have been mistaken for a wad of lichen or moss. The spiderweb wrapped around the leaves was used to glue the nest together. The small nest blended very well with the geranium leaves and was easy to miss. Also difficult to get at by non-hovering predators and hidden away from humans. Well, almost.
The Discovery of two jelly bean-sized eggs - April 26
What do we have here? - May 9 day 1 - One little hummer
This hummingbird's nest was very well engineered by the enterprising mother. It was carefully fashioned out of moss, lichen, tiny leaves, plant hairs, and glued together with the silk threads of the spider web. The nest was built on top of a "Y" branch of the trailing geranium plant and was about the size of half of a walnut. It was just the perfect accommodation for the two jelly bean-sized hummingbird eggs.
One hatched egg - May 9 day 1 - Another one to go
This photo was taken to show the size of the tiny hummingbird's nest relative to my hand. The tiny nest was about 1 1/2 to 2 inches wide and so expertly constructed by the mother hummingbird. The inside looked like it was lined with white fleece or cotton fluffs to keep the baby chicks warm and cozy.
And then there were two - May 11 Day 3 - A new roommate
The almost perfectly rounded interior of the nest was molded from the mother hummingbird's wing, rump and feet. The bottom of the nest and the side facing the wind were thicker than the top. The mother hummingbird disposed of the broken egg shells as soon as both eggs were hatched.
Kudos to a great housekeeper.
Growing in leaps and bounds - May 12 Day 4 - One smaller than the other
The baby chicks seemed to double in size everyday. Their tiny fuzzy feathers help regulate their own body heat and keep them warm as their mother leaves the nest and go foraging for bugs and nectar to feed them.
May 12 Day 4 - Cannot see but can hear
Even with their eyes still closed, the baby hummingbirds could feel the wind from the wings of their mother and lift their heads up and open their hungry mouths for feeding. At 4 days old, the two hummers have a darker but still stubby orange beak and dark bodies.
May 14 Day 6 - One orange beak
At six days old, the hummingbird chicks have developed pin feathers which will eventually become real feathers.
May 15 Day 7 - How they have grown in one day
The baby hummingbirds look like little porcupines with pin feathers growing on their backs.
Getting Vocal - May 17 Day 9 - Hummingbird babies are always hungry
Of the two hummingbird nestlings, this one obviously knows how to ask for food. The hummer felt my movements as I tried to position myself to take a photo and it instinctively opened its mouth thinking I am its mother.
Day 9 - Hummingbirds are born potty-trained
I caught these two chicks chirping for their mother. It was at this point that I noticed the hummingbirds' waste (aka poop) on the leaves around the nest. Hummingbirds are born potty-trained and will raise their behinds to shoot poo over the side of the nest. This keeps the nest clean and is a real help for the busy mother who has to leave the nest to gather nectar and bugs for the babies.
It's getting crowded in here - May 20 Day 12 - There is barely room for two
The pin feathers have grown and covered their entire bodies. The nest is now beginning to get crowded. I did not remove the yellowing leaves surrounding the nest and allowed these to wither away on their own. This will continue to serve as a camouflage for the nest against predators who may be lurking around. And indeed they were. Fortunately, hummingbirds are the only birds that can hover.
Waiting for Momma - May 23 Day 15 - Where's lunch?
At 15 days old, the hummingbirds have grown real feathers and their beaks have become darker and longer. They can now spread their wings while holding on to the bottom of the nest with their feet. This is prevent them from falling out of the nest accidentally. What smart little critters.
Two Sleepyheads- May 25 Day 17 - What a difference a day makes - how they have grown
The two baby hummingbirds have outgrown their small nest. Their beaks have grown darker and even longer. What a difference a day makes in the lives of the baby hummers.
Sitting back-to-back. - May 26 day 18
Two's company or two's a crowd
I caught these two hummers changing positions in the nest so both of them would fit better. The spiderweb around the nest allowed the nest to expand a little bit to accommodate the growing babies. Their beaks have grown even longer and darker.
Two's Company, two's a crowd - Day18
Bright-eyed and bushy tailed - Day 18
So cozy together - May 27 Day 19 - Nature's wide-eyed jewels
This is the most precious shot of the two hummingbird babies ever. The metallic green color on their feathers seemed to change with light intensity and angle of the camera. In the late afternoon, the feathers of the hummers are more brownish in color.
Older sibling fledged - May 29 Day 21 - And then there was was one
The older hummingbird had left the nest. It was unfortunate that I did not capture this moment of flight. Having a day job kept me from being there at the right moment. Now the lone hummer baby is contemplating on leaving soon. But is she ready?
Baby hummer longing to fly- May 30 Day 22 - Early morning
At 22 days old, the baby hummer has learned how to stand and pearch perch on the nest grabbing snugly at the bottom of the nest with its feet. It would groom and preen its feathers and flap its wings as if rehearsing for the big day.
View from the back - May 30 Day 22 - Hanging on precariously on the edge of the nest
When a baby hummingbird is getting ready to fledge or leave its nest, it perches on the edge of the nest with its back facing the wind.
May 30 Day 22 - Can you see the little hummer in its nest?
A shot of the nest from the bottom looking up shows the cup-shaped nest with lichen glued to the sides. The little fledgling's head and beak can be seen peering out of the nest.
Little fledgling is ready to fly - May 30 Day 22 - Late afternoon
The afternoon sun had set and the fledgling was still perched on the nest. It had spent many days of wing exercise, while holding on tightly to the nest with its feet. It was unfazed by the gusts of wind and swayed with the rhythm of the branches.
Waiting for mother - May 31 Day 23 - The last day - It is time to go
This was the hummingbird's last day in the nest. It was easy to tell from its body language. The chick would perch on the edge of the nest and flap its wings even as the branches swayed in the wind. The mother hummingbird came every 15 minutes to feed the baby hummer. This went on for an hour. The baby hummingbird seemed restless and continued to flap its wings and look upwards. Then there was a big gust of wind the baby hummingbird was gone in the blink of an eye. It happened so fast that I was not able to catch the first flight with my camera.
And then there were none - May 31 - Baby hummingbirds have fledged
This was what the empty nest looked like after the hummingbirds have flown away. It was a bittersweet sight. I miss the hummers, but at the same time I felt so fortunate to have been picked to witness one of nature's miracles.
Hummingbird's nest wilting away - July 12 - Two months later - let nature take its course
The nest has dried up and shrunk in the hot summer sun. I left it undisturbed and even avoided touching it.
When the cold winter came, some of the branches and leaves of the geranium plant withered away. It was then I cut off the branch that so proudly held the tiny nest of my two baby hummingbirds. Perhaps, another mother hummingbird may find its way again in one of the hanging flower pots.
Hummingbird story on film
Watch this poignant 4-part video chronicling the lives of the two baby hummers.
Hummingbird story set into motion and music - Days 1-9
This video chronicles the hummingbirds babies from days 1-9. Watch the hungry chicks beg for food as I click away with my camera.
Two's company, two's a crowd - Days 12-19
Watch how the two baby hummers lay on their backs in the nest to keep their long beaks from getting in the way. The older sibling soon flies away.
Baby hummer does wing exercise - Days 21-22
Watch the lone baby hummingbird raise its behind and shoot poo. It perches on the nest and flexes its wings.
Baby hummingbird leaves the nest - Last day
Watch the baby hummingbird grooms itself in preparation for its first flight. The wind beckons and helps lift this little bird into the high heavens.
"One touch of nature makes the whole world kin." - William Shakespeare
Recipe for homemade hummingbird nectar
Super easy to make
I found out that boiling sugar and water together kills mold spores and retards growth of bacteria. Boiling also helps keep the nectar (sugar water) last longer in the hummingbird feeder without getting cloudy after a three days.
The ratio is 1 part sugar to 4 parts of water.
1. Mix together 1 cup sugar and 4 cups water in a pot. Boil for 2 minutes.
2. Cool completely. Pour into clean feeder.
This will fill a 30 ounce Perky hummingbird feeder.
Don't miss out on capturing those precious moments
A good camera, patience, practice, and chance can produce some of the most interesting photos you can imagine. I keep my camera on a counter near the patio door in case a songbird, a hummingbird's nest, squirrels, or other wildlife happen to show up in our yard. Timing is everything when it comes to capturing a rare moment.