Birth Announcement

So many of you were interested in
the mama hummingbird I photographed 
for the post "If you build it..." I thought 
you might like an update...  

First of all, to give you some perspective, the hummingbird egg is about the size of a small jellybean and her petite abode measures just 2.5 inches (6.35 cm) wide and 1.5 inches (3.81 cm) high. 

{Viewing these images taken with a zoom lens, it's easy to forget just how tiny adult hummingbirds are:  on average about 3 inches (7.62 cm) from the tip of their beak to the tip of their tail feathers.}

The above image is one of the first photos I took after discovering the nest in our pepper tree.  Mama H. sat diligently keeping her baby-to-be at a comfortable 96 degrees, leaving only briefly to feed.

The two weeks weren't always as easy as this image might lead you to believe.  We had a heavy rain storm that settled in for several days and the winds were blowing her so violently one night I feared she and the egg might be thrown overboard. Then came the rains.  One of the biggest downpours we've had all season.   I could see her out in the midst of it all with her beak in the air  so the water would run down her back and off the edge of the nest. The male hummingbirds do nothing to help the females, so I knew she was on her own and would have to remain in that position for as long as the storm lasted, poor thing!

I paced back and forth, looking out through my telephoto lens every so often.  It was such a long period of time that she endured this, it was breaking my heart and (as crazy as I know this sounds), I seriously contemplated making some sort of protection and attaching it above her.  However, I worried that anything I might try would frighten her more than help her.  (Alex jokingly suggested a cocktail umbrella – which, it's funny to think,  would have been about the right size!)

Eventually, I was convinced I had to let nature take its course and thankfully, she did make it through that stormy day and night.  

My desk is positioned so I can see out the window to the pepper tree and as I worked, I continued to watch her and photograph her every so often over the next few days. 

On this day, I looked out to see how she was and though she seemed fine, the nest was now tilted at an odd angle.  I wondered how she would cope with that. Would the egg be fine?  Would the baby go tumbling out when it hatched?  (One more thing for me to worry about!)  

I grabbed my camera to get a closer look and as soon as I zoomed in I realized – it wasn't Mama sitting on her nest,      —Baby H. had arrived!


I continued watching and moments later, I heard the familiar sound...  Mama was in the area.  First she came to check me out, hovering in front of the open window just a couple of feet from my face.  I held very still and soon she moved and hovered in the same manner at several positions around the tree before finally deeming it safe to go to her baby.



It was time for a feeding.  I had read that the mother gathers nectar and tiny bugs for protein and makes a slurry mixture she holds until ready to feed. What surprised me was just how aggressive the transfer to Baby seems to be.

I watched as she landed on the edge of the nest and flexed her neck as she worked the mixture up and inserted her beak far inside Baby H's beak.  This alone looked like it should be very uncomfortable for Baby but that wasn't the half of it!   She then proceeded to rapidly pump up and down like a tiny jackhammer, vigorously shaking his entire body in the process  and he endures 2-3 rounds of this per feeding!


She must know what she is doing though because Baby H. seems perfectly content and in just a couple of days time, he has almost doubled in size.


Soon, there isn't enough room in the nest for both of them.  Baby H. spends his time waiting for Mama to feed him (about every 30 minutes) and practices fluttering his wings every so often.  



This day I saw Baby H. up on the edge of his nest and later that day when I checked, he was nowhere to be found.  Had I missed him flying away?  He hadn't looked ready to fly when I saw him earlier.  I hoped he was all right!  I went outside to see if I could see him anywhere.  I even (cautiously) looked around on the ground.  Had he ventured out of his nest too soon?  

Thankfully, he wasn't anywhere around and I told myself he must have been ready to fly away after all.  


As I was headed back in the house, I happened to look up again and saw Mama H. high up on a tiny branch.

Oh, no!  Why was she just sitting there?  Was she looking for her baby?  


Fearing the worst, I looked over at the neighbor's cat who was leisurely licking his paws.  Was he the culprit?  Had Baby H. met his demise here after all?  With my heart sinking, I began looking around on the ground again for signs of a struggle.  

Suddenly I heard that familiar sound...I looked up and Mama H. was right there in front of me, hovering at eye level.  Was she asking for my help?  

I watched as she made a quick check around then headed back up into the tree.

I ran in to get my camera and finally I located and zoomed in to where I had seen her before.  There she was and there was...Baby H!  It was him I had seen there on the branch before!  Mama had just arrived for another feeding.



It's hard to believe he was strong enough and coordinated enough to stay balanced on that tiny branch, but he did...even with Mama's vigorous feeding regimen.




Mama H. has done a good job.  Baby H. has grown by leaps and bounds in only a few days time.  He is quite the plump little fellow now and his feathers have filled in nicely.




Though he had managed to fly a few feet to get to the branch he was on, apparently he wasn't quite ready for a full excursion just yet.  I checked on him several times and he remained in this exact same position the rest of that day...




...and well into the night.



Early the next day, I went outside to see him and he was nowhere to be found.  The tiny branch was empty.   I waited and watched for some time, hoping to see him in another location in the tree.  If I couldn't spot him on my own, I knew I'd be able to locate him if Mama H. came in for a feeding, so I kept watching and waiting... but no.  He was gone.

I read that once the baby is ready to fly, the mother takes them on a tour showing them where the best gathering spots are for nectar and bugs.  Since Mama H. liked our garden, maybe Baby H. is making his rounds here too.  I like to think so.


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Interesting Hummingbird Facts:

A hummingbird's wings are unlike any other bird's wings. They allow a hummingbird to fly forward, backward, hover, and even fly upside down for a short period of time. Hummingbirds are the only birds in the world that can fly like this.  

Hummingbird wings beat about seventy (70) times per second while in regular flight and up to 200 times per second when diving.

Hummingbirds don't flap their wings, they rotate them.  When hummingbirds fly, they move their wings in an oval pattern except when they are hovering.  When they are hovering, they will move their wings in a figure-eight motion.

A hummingbird can fly at an average speed of 25-30 miles per hour, and dive at a speed of up to 60 miles per hour.  

When hummingbirds fly, they fly upright facing the world, not flat like most birds. 

-excerpts from World of Hummingbirds.  Be sure to visit them for many more interesting facts on these miniature wonders of nature. 


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