A sad tale for a mama hummingbird
by JUDI CURRY
Published - 04/24/18 - 07:31 AM | 2192 views | 0 0 comments | 32 32 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The hummingbird on her nest. / Photo by Judi Curry
The hummingbird on her nest. / Photo by Judi Curry
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The damaged hummingbird nest and broken egg. / Photo by Judi Curry
The damaged hummingbird nest and broken egg. / Photo by Judi Curry
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Several weeks ago, my friend Ron noticed a beautiful “happening.” A small bird was building a nest in his Chaparral tree. It flitted around for awhile and to his amazement one of the smallest nest seemed to be formed, and a bird was sitting on the nest.

But there was a problem. The branch that she decided to build her nest on was in its final stage of life; turning yellow; losing its strength to even hold up the two leaves on the end. Most hummingbirds build nests in a forked branch of a tree, on long thin branches or even sheltered in bushes. Hummers are resourceful, and try to build nests to protect their eggs from wind, rain, and predators.

While building a nest, females frequently land on the nest to test the stability of the perch. It is interesting to note that female hummingbirds build the nest entirely. Males do not have any part in raising the chicks once mating is complete. (Typical male behavior?)

The main materials in a nest are spider silk, other feathers, fuzz fur or hairs from leaves. (As an aside, I frequently put my dogs’ fur outside after brushing him because I have seen other birds take the fur for their nests.)

Mama hummer began sitting on the nest and Ron called me over to take a look at how precarious the nest looked. (I am not an expert on hummingbirds but I do have many feeders in the yard and have had a nest or two over the years.) I agreed with him and called the Hummingbird Society and asked them if it would be alright to “shore up” the nest. I was told that if we did that it might scare aware the hummingbird and she would not return to the nest. We decided to watch it.

One day Ron noticed that the mama was not on the nest so he took out a ladder and looked into it and what did he see? One baby squawking for food, and two tiny, tiny eggs, about the size of a small jelly bean. This was very unusual because almost always they only lay two eggs – about 2-3 days apart. He quietly got down and was relieved to see the mama bird back on the walnut-sized nest.

Hummers have some predators – snakes, lizards, raccoons, rats, and, surprisingly, other birds. She covered the nest completely with her body and her treasures seemed to be well protected. Once again, our concern was the fragility of the branch she had chosen for her nest.

Alas, our concern was justified, because when Ron went out to the backyard the next day the nest was on the ground; the live baby was nowhere to be found; one egg was gone, and the remaining egg was cracked. The female hummer was flitting around, and appeared to be mourning the loss of her chicks. She stayed around for 48 hours, and we have not seen her since.

Because the nest was still attached to the branch, we think that a predator must have been the culprit that caused the nest to fall. The top of the nest showed a great deal of damage; the nest anchored to the branch was intact.

Ron and I felt terrible. In retrospect we feel that we should have tried to shore up the branch; it might have helped save the nest from falling. We have a lot of birds, raccoons, mice and rats in the neighborhood. We don’t know if one of them was the culprit or not. But I can say this without question – we have never felt so sad about losing a bird as we do about these.

I took the nest home with me to take a few pictures, and decided to “mount” it on top of one of my feeders. And to my great surprise, and to Ron and my relief, other hummers began to tear little bits and pieces from the nest, presumably to build their own nests.

Mother Nature is a wonderful thing; one’s loss has certainly become another’s gain.
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