Even when they are adults, hummingbirds are already pretty small, so how big are their babies, and what do they look like?
With hummingbirds camouflaging their small nests, it’s completely understandable that people don’t know what they look like.
We've put together this guide on all things baby hummingbird to help you learn and find out about them!
Newly hatched hummingbirds are tiny, weighing around 60 grams and are born pretty much naked. The color of their skin is variable and can be dark gray, dark slate or pink. The skin color can even vary between hatchlings in the nest with a mixture of both darkish and pink hatchlings. Generally, the only covering is two thin rows or yellowish-white pinfeathers that run along their backs (lateral dorsal tract).
The bill is short and yellowish, and both the fleshy parts of the throat and lower mandible are variable colors and can be anything from orange to red. There is no egg tooth. Hummingbirds are born with closed eyes and will start to open from 7 days old.
Baby hummingbirds are born altrical, which means they hatch in an undeveloped state and require care and feeding on their parents. This means they have no coordination, but they can raise their head in response to the mewing call of the female.
The pinfeathers of a young hummingbird begin to show from 7-8 days of age, and the first exercising of the wing is carried out just after 2 weeks old.
It only takes two to three days for newborn birds to be able to defecate over the rim of the nest.
Hummingbird chicks being fed by their mother
Hummingbirds nests are small and are usually well camouflaged and in secretive locations to avoid predation. This means they are usually in places that we can’t either get to or see easily.
By the time they leave the nests, they look very similar in plumage and size to the adult female, so they can be tough to distinguish. So the chances are, you’ve seen many young birds out and about but assumed they are females.
It varies on the hummingbird species, but usually, they are very tiny at around one inch in length and weigh around 0.62 grams.
If you compared it to an object, then newly hatched hummingbirds are roughly the size of a jellybean.
From day one all the way through to 18 days, they gain around 0.5 grams of weight each day - this is almost a 50% increase in mass from the first day alone!
Two young hummingbirds in nest in the trees
It depends on the species, but the baby of a common hummingbird species, the ruby-throated hummingbird, weighs around 0.62 grams. That's about a third of the weight of a U.S. dime!
There are no specific names for baby hummingbirds, and instead, ornithologists and birdwatchers refer to young hummingbirds as either:
The feeding and care of hummingbird chicks are carried out solely by the female, and males provide no help.
The hatchlings will be fed by the female inserting into the bill of the young birds and begin regurgitating a mixture of partially digested bugs and nectar for the first 15 days of their lives.
These partially digested will often include soft-bodied bugs, including mosquitoes, spiders, gnats, caterpillars, small bees, fruit flies and insect eggs. These insects are a great source of protein for the chicks, which helps with their growth and development.
Chicks will instinctively raise their heads when the mother returns to the nest because they recognise the mewing call and the wind from her wings.
After around 2 weeks, the female will bring insects back to the nests for the babies to eat independently.
If you’re ever lucky enough - and can observe at a respectful distance, you can see the mother's throat swells whilst she is feeding the young. This is to pump the food out of her beak in an up and down motion.
For more information on the diet of a hummingbird, check out this artcle.
Hummingbird feeding baby in nest
The eggs of a hummingbird are smooth, white and are elliptically-ovate. They are extremely tiny and are a similar size to a coffee bean.
Ruby-throated hummingbird eggs on average and 13mm in length and 8.6mm in width. The average weight is just 0.56 grams.
Hummingbird egg in nest
On average, clutches contain 2 eggs but can occasionally only contain 1 egg. In rare circumstances, 3 eggs have been reported.
The number of clutches produced each year varies on the habitat, weather and species of hummingbird, although usually its between one and three broods per year.
Eggs are usually incubated and hatch after between 12 and 14 days. This does, however, vary across species, range and location.
If the weather is particularly cold, this can increase the time for the eggs to hatch.
Females incubate the eggs on their own and will only leave the nest for a few minutes each hour to get some food for herself. The eggs need to be kept at around 96 degrees.
Once hatched, the females will eject eggshells from the nest. Eggshells are usually found on the ground beneath the nest.
Egg-laying will change depending on the species and location, but on average eggs are laid as early as the last week of March all the way through until September. Although the most common month for hummingbirds to have babies is during May.
The second egg is usually laid between 1 and 3 days after the first one.
Two rufous-tailed hummingbirds in nest
The lifecycle of a young hummingbird is very fast, and it only takes about 3 weeks for all of their feathers to develop that allow them to fly. During this period, their tail feathers can still be short, but this doesn’t affect their ability to fly.
Although it usually takes 3 weeks for them to fly, they often start to exercise their wings at around two weeks old.
It varies slightly depending on the species, but on average, nestlings are in the nest for around 18 and 22 days. After this time, they become fledglings.
When hummingbirds fledge the nest, they are often substantially heavier than the average mass of an adult. This will generally decrease sharply until the foraging skills are fully developed.
After they fledge the nest, they stay with their mother for around another 7 days, where she will continue to feed them.
After this time, at around a 3-4 weeks old, the fledgling hummingbirds are developed enough and have practiced their flying skills enough to head off on their own.
Young hummingbird with mother
The nest site is usually in trees and bushes near the tip of a down-sloping branch. They prefer spots that have open areas below the nest and leaf a leaf canopy overhead.
Forests and gardens are both common places for them to nest, but having a nearby source of nectar and insects is factored into the decision.
Female Hummingbirds chose the nest site and will construct it independently, which takes between 6 and 10 days.
A flat base of thistle or dandelion down is made first. This is then usually attached to the branch with a spider web. The side walls are made out of white plant down, more spider webbing and bud scales.
Two baby hummingbirds in nest with mother
Generally speaking, hummingbirds do not reuse nests but will often make use of the old nests material. However, some females will ‘refurbish’ their nests to raise a second brood.
If you find a baby hummingbird on the ground, the best thing to try and do, if safe to do so, try and place the young bird back into the nest.
Be careful if the baby bird is clinging on to anything with its feet, as you’ll need to pick that up with the baby. Otherwise, the chick will hang onto the object, and it could mean breaking their tiny bones.
If the nest has been destroyed and there is no sign of the mother, keep the baby warm in a dark and quiet spot. It’s best not to feed or peek at them. If you’ve done this, be sure to get in contact with your local wildlife authority or bird specialist for their help, as they may be able to take the young bird off you to rehabilitate and raise.
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