Every spring the United States and Canada are blessed with the presence of humming birds migrating north to make a home for their coming young. They come from Mexico and South America in search of a cooler, more suitable climate to nest and have a family. Picking the right location for a nest is critical to the survival of the bird’s young. Finding just the right spot is only half the battle, however. Next comes the actual construction, and for a pregnant humming bird it proves to be quite difficult a task.
There are two priorities in the female mind when choosing the perfect site for her nest: temperature and protection from the elements. The mother must be certain to choose a place where temperatures will stay below 96 degrees F, or the embryos will be fried. For this reason, higher altitudes see more humming birds nesting in their areas. Bodies of water are also popular retreats. A few humming birds such as the Ruby-throats, however, have learned to “beat the heat.” In a canopy of broadleaf trees, the temperature averages about 6 degrees F cooler than in the open atmosphere. This makes for a cool shelter and allows humming birds to survive in the lower elevations without being cooked. These trees are also perfect for protection against harmful weather elements, wind especially. No matter what climate a humming bird chooses to settle in, the mother must choose a location safe from the harmful effects of high winds. If the eggs roll out of the nest, they are likely to break or be eaten. All of these things and more factor into the choice of a nesting location; once a mother has chosen a location, it is time to start the construction.
It typically takes a humming bird a little less than a week to finish her nest. The birds average well over 100 trips per day working for about 4 hours. The foundation is made of spider webs due to their sticky nature. Next a layer of soft materials are added such as moss or leaf hairs. The mother uses these layers to shape the nest, and after the mold is made, more spider webs are brought in. After all of the layers of webs and moss, a layer of camouflage is brought in; anything from seeds to small twigs will work. Humming birds are creative too: camouflage is darker on shaded parts of the nest and lighter where it is sunnier, walls are thicker on the windier side and, for added comfort, the inside of the nest is shaped by the mother’s own body. Their nests are artwork: intricate and beautiful.
The last part of nesting for a female humming bird is telling the male to stay out of sight. His bright, flashy colors are dangerous because they are likely to attract predators. So, as soon as the female is impregnated, daddy has to take a hike. Humming birds have proven themselves very intelligent when it comes to nest building and protecting their family. They have it all, brains and beauty.
George & Judy Steiner www.hum-ming-bird.com
George and wife Judy are empty nesters (ah ha no wonder the affinity for birds!)who enjoy the outdoors, stained glass and eagerly awaiting for the truckloads of laundry that their two college daughters bring home. Of recent, the internet has played an integral part in George’s lengthening “To Do” list and Judy’s search for a internet rehabilitation center.
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