Tiny, seamless in its construction and built perfectly on high perches, hummingbird nests are a wonder to behold. Not much larger than a pingpong ball, the little nests are sanctuaries for baby birds and their doting parents. There are 17 breeds of hummingbirds flitting around yards in North America, and each is exuberant in its nest building, snatching bits of thread and flower stems to create a home for their brood. They can also be tricky to locate, but there are ways to know what to look for to find an inhabited hummingbird nest.
How to Attract Hummingbirds
If you build it, they will come. Maybe. Planting a garden full of vegetation that hummingbirds enjoy will lure the friendly flyers to your yard. Hummingbirds love plants with nectar, such as bee balm, trumpet honeysuckle, cardinal flower and sages to name but a few. Tall trees and hardy shrubs around the perimeter of your yard make for a lovely place to build a secure nest for home-seeking hummingbirds. Ornamental grasses are often used for padding and sprucing it up.
What to Know Before the Hunt
Velvety and soft with sides built to expand to make room for the family, hummingbird nests are a treasure to find, particularly because you truly have to hunt to find one. The compact cup is made of plant fibers, torn leaves, twigs and even spider silk as a binder. It might be disguised with lichens on the outside.
It may look like a tiny clump of forgotten leaves or debris, but the woven basket is home to two eggs, usually no more or less, and their busy parents. The female hummingbird rests on her eggs for 15 to 18 days before they hatch. The baby birds take anywhere from 18 to 28 days before they fly from their fluffy starter home.
Depending on where you live, nest locations have telltale signs that will help you on your hunt. Most hummingbirds look for forks in branches or slender tree limbs that form a natural V to set up a sturdy home. The broad-billed hummingbird can be a pest due to its penchant for building on clotheslines. Hummingbirds have also been known to build on the thick electrical wires for mounted security cameras and holiday lighting.
Beware when hunting to not get too close to a nest. Hummingbirds are very territorial and not afraid to show it. The western species of Rufous hummingbirds are rather aggressive and will alert you if you are too close to their nest by dive bombing your head.
Always remember to never touch the nest, particularly if it has eggs or baby birds resting inside. If you mess around with the nest, you may attract predators.