Saturday, July 10, 2010

Hummingbird Nest

This summer there are at least 3 Ruby-throated hummingbirds (two female and one male) frequently visiting the gardens and nectar feeders around the museum and naturalist's cottage.  Its always a joy to watch these tiniest of birds zipping through the air visiting flower after flower, taking sips from the nectar feeders, and chasing each other around during a territorial dispute.  Despite all the collective hours spent casually observing these winged wonders, one aspect of their life has always remained a mystery to us.  Where do they build their nest?

Having a keen interest in birds and unprecedented time/access to a wonderful place like Westmoreland, I've been lucky enough to observe an assortment of rarely seen wildlife and animal behavior.  One of the most difficult things to do during spring/summer is to locate the secretive locations of bird's nests.  I've witnessed chickadees, titmice, nuthatches and woodpeckers excavating nesting cavities in trees.  I've seen plenty of birds nesting in the many nesting boxes around the sanctuary, including chickadees, House wrens, bluebirds, Tree swallows, and Wood ducks.  I've even been fortunate enough to find active nests of phoebes, pewees, orioles, vireos, Blue Jays, Great-crested flycatchers, Mallards, and Yellow warblers.  Unfortunately, the hummingbirds so common in the summer garden have proven far more difficult to observe at the nest...until now.


The lichen covered bump in the above photo is the nest of a Ruby-throated hummingbird.  Its about 2-inches wide and about half as deep.  The majority of the nest is comprised of plant down and spider's web (AllAboutBirds.org) while the exterior is decorated with patches of lichen as you can see in the photo.  I have no knowledge as to what may be inside (eggs or young), but I know that it is an active nest.  The female actively defends the nest when other birds get too close, which is what led me to accidentally find it. 

While I was observing a small group of chickadees and titmice foraging in a nearby tree, I suddenly noticed a hummer appear from nowhere to whack a titmouse with the full force of her tiny little body.  After the titmouse retreated, I observed her flying back and settling on top of the nest.  Prior to the sudden attack, I (and likely the titmouse) had no idea the nest was even there.  What luck!


As you can see above, the female has settled onto the nest.  I'll keep visiting during the coming days/weeks to continue to observe the little bird's nesting progress.  If all goes well, we'll likely see 2-3 fledgling hummers visiting the garden and nectar feeders in the weeks to come.

-Adam Zorn, Naturalist

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very cool! I'm gonna have to come by one weekend and finally check out the sanctuary.

-Tj