The Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) is the most familiar Hummingbird species in the eastern half of the United States and the only species that breeds there. These birds delight birdwatchers each year when they return to feed and nest in woodlands, forests, and backyards from Texas to New England and further north.
The Ruby-throated Hummingbird nesting season lasts from April to September. They may have two or rarely three broods each year, each taking about six weeks to hatch, grow, and reach independence. Females provide sole care for the two eggs and chicks and even build the nest alone.
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds do not use nest boxes, but birdwatchers can attract these delightful birds by providing great foraging and nesting habitats.
They will nest in several tree species, usually well above ground level, and they are attracted to nectar feeders, tubular wildflowers, and freshwater sources.
This guide covers the nesting habitats of the Ruby-throated Hummingbird, an energetic spring visitor. Read along for an in-depth look at their nest, eggs, parental care, and much more!
Close up of a Ruby-throated hummingbird sat on the nest
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds nest in every state in the eastern half of the United States. Their breeding range extends further west in Canada, where they migrate as far as Central Alberta. Continue reading for more detailed information on where they nest.
Female Ruby-throated Hummingbirds choose the nest site alone. They prefer to nest on tree branches, although some females build their nests in unusual places like hanging chains and light fixtures. Where available, mother Hummingbirds often build their nests over water.
Female Hummingbirds choose level or sloping branches and often build their nests in the crook of a V-shaped branch.
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds often return to the same areas year after year. They usually don’t reuse old nests but may build new ones in the same vicinity when they return the following spring. Some homeowners report that Hummingbirds nest on the same ornaments each year, and these may well be the same individual birds.
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds often nest in backyards that provide good nesting habitat. Quiet yards with various plant species and food sources are more likely to attract a nesting female.
However, they can become remarkably tame and occasionally nest in odd places like porch lights and hanging ornaments.
Young Ruby-throated hummingbird chicks inside the nest
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds do not nest in nest boxes or other cavities. They prefer to build their nests on open surfaces like tree branches. However, these birds use dense foliage above the nest to shelter the eggs and chicks from the harsh summer sun.
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds nest in many different shrubs and trees, including conifers and deciduous species. Common examples include:
Most Ruby-throated Hummingbird nests are between about 15 and 25 feet (5 - 7m) above the ground, although some birds nest as low as 2 feet (0.6 m) and others as high as 50 feet (15 m).
Female Ruby-throated hummingbird attending to the nest
Have you ever seen a Hummingbird nest? Continue reading to learn about their size and appearance.
Ruby-throated Hummingbird nests are small and reasonably deep cups built on the upper side of tree branches or artificial structures like wires. Nests are usually difficult to spot from below due to their position and because they are so well-camouflaged with moss and lichen.
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are tiny birds. Their average clutch consists of just two eggs, so their nest can be built compact. However, their nests are cleverly made with soft, stretchy walls that expand to accommodate the growing chicks.
Freshly used nest of a Ruby-throated hummingbird
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds return to the United States each year to nest. Continue reading to learn which months they nest and how long the breeding season lasts.
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds nest in the spring and summer months in the United States and Canada.
The Ruby-throated Hummingbird nesting season spans several months, with many females having a second and sometimes even a third brood. Each brood takes about five weeks from egg laying to independence.
Let’s take a look at the general timeline of a single brood.
Nests with eggs have been recorded from March to the end of September.
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds do not nest in winter. They are migratory birds that fly south into Southern Mexico and Central America for the non-breeding season. Some individuals overwinter in Southern Florida.
Ruby-throated hummingbirds are fairly creative when it comes to nest-building, and often they'll build their nests in some interesting places
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds construct beautiful but cryptic cup-shaped nests. Let’s take a closer look at their building technique and materials.
The female Ruby-throated Hummingbird builds a study base of soft plant materials and spider webs. Next, she erects the stretchy walls and uses her chest to shape them into a cozy fit. Finally, she will attach lichen to the outer walls to camouflage the nest.
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds build their nests with the following materials:
Female Ruby-throated Hummingbirds build their nests without any help. In fact, males do not ‘lift a feather’ to assist in the nesting and chick-rearing process.
Female Ruby-throated hummingbird in flight, carrying nesting material in talons
Hummingbird eggs are amazingly small. Read this section to learn more about their size, appearance, and care.
Female Ruby-throated Hummingbirds lay tiny white eggs. Each egg measures just half an inch (13 mm) long and a third of an inch (9mm) in diameter.
These birds typically lay two eggs per brood, although some females lay one or three.
The male Ruby-throated Hummingbird's only responsibilities are to attract a female and fertilize her eggs. He does not assist in incubating eggs.
Ruby-throated hummingbird incubating her eggs in the nest
Female Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are excellent mothers. They spend more than a month caring for each brood, and many produce a second brood each year without the help of a male.
The baby Hummingbirds leave the nest at about three weeks old (18 - 22 days). Their mother will continue to feed them for about a week before they become fully independent.
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds have one or two broods each year. In the South, they often have two broods in a season, and they probably have second broods in the north of their range when possible. Third broods are rare.
Ruby-throated hummingbird feeding hungry chicks in the nest
Mother Hummingbirds do not abandon their nests easily, particularly if they have a healthy brood of eggs or chicks. Of course, they must leave the nest temporarily to feed because they do not get any help from their partner.
Females spend about three-quarters of the day incubating the eggs and usually only leave for a few minutes at a time.
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds do not nest on the ground. They generally nest ten feet or higher above the ground, but nests have been found as low as two feet up in New England.
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds sleep in trees and bushes at night, sheltered from the wind and terrestrial predators. Females will sleep in the nest when incubating their eggs and brooding young chicks.
You can attract Hummingbirds to your yard by putting out feeders and growing natural food sources like Cardinal Flowers, Foxglove, and Bee Balm. They favor a natural landscape with a freshwater source and varied plants that provide nesting sites and attract insects.
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