Hummingbird mating is an amazing event to watch. The male Hummingbird in his quest for attracting a female puts on an elaborate aerial show.
First, the male stakes out a territory that will provide a source of food and a safe place for raising baby birds.
Not that the male participates in the activities of nesting but he does want to provide for the needs of his family.
While he must constantly defend his turf the male Hummingbird must also work at finding a mate.
The Hummingbird mating process is a simple but dramatic affair.
The female Hummingbird sits quietly on a branch waiting for the male to impress her with visual and audio displays.
The male makes a series of impressive deep arcing swoops to catch her attention.
The visual display of the male is accentuated by flashing colours created by his “gorgets”. The “gorgets” are flat iridescent feathers around the neck, that flash brightly when the sun is reflected on them at certain angles.
Consequently, the more he swoops and dives, the greater the number of angles the sun can catch the brilliant colours of his feathers.
The better the show, the better the chances of catching the attention of the female.
Perhaps one could suggest that for the female Hummingbird, the male’s gorgets are the diamonds of their world.
“Gorgets are a female Hummingbird's best friend” has a similar ring to “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend”. ;)
A note about the “Gorgets”: Although the gorgets are used during Hummingbird mating, they have another purpose.
They are like human fingerprints.
The pattern created by the gorgets is different on each Hummingbird.
They are used to make a statement in territorial disputes reminding other males that this male with this particular pattern is "Lord" of this area.
Just like humans, the female Hummingbird enjoys being serenaded. To this end the male adds to his arsenal of weapons for attracting females by “singing”. As he swoops about displaying the rich colors of his gorgets he chirps, buzzes and "zees".
The whole process of Hummingbird mating seems very arduous for such little creatures, especially when you consider that Hummingbirds do not mate for life. Each spring after migrating from their winter habitat, the male must start the whole process over again.
After the mating process is completed, the female will drive the male away and his participation in the process is finished until mating season the next year.
Now the female sets out raising baby birds alone.
Awesome Video of Male Hummer Singing and Dancing
“A Female Hummingbird’s Work is Never Done”
The female prefers to build the nest, incubate the eggs, raise the young and defend her territory by herself. She may even chase the male away. Attracting males is now out of season for her!
The nest the females constructs is about 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 inches wide on the outside diameter. This of course depends on the species, some will be smaller and some a little larger. A quarter will barely cover the outside circumference of a Ruby-throated Hummingbird's nest!
This tiny compact nest is made of various nesting materials depending on the area where the female Hummer is living.
The outside of the nest and the part that attaches the nest to the base where the nest will sit, are made with sturdy materials, such as bud pods, small animal bones, plant fibers and small sticks.
For the inside lining of the nest softer materials will be used like plant down and finer plant fibers.
Most species of Hummingbirds will weave spider silk into the materials they choose, to hold their nest together. Spider silk is very strong and durable. Probably the reason some Hummingbirds are able to add a new nest on top of an existing nest year after year.
Scientific American states on their website that
The different silks have unique physical properties such as strength, toughness and elasticity, but all are very strong compared to other natural and synthetic materials.
A dragline strand is several times stronger than steel, on a weight-for-weight basis, but a spider's dragline is only about one-tenth the diameter of a human hair.
You have to admit, that is strong!
Often lichen will be attached to the outside of the nest for camouflage. You can see an example below!
A penny could fit in the inside of a nest and cover three eggs. Most Hummingbirds only lay two white eggs in their nests. Nests are often built on a horizontal branch of a tree or bush that provides dense cover.
Incubation lasts for about two and a half weeks. Then the mother begins the three-week stage of feeding, protecting and raising baby birds for fledge day.
Some females have been known to return to the very same nest year after year. But instead of house cleaning last years nest, she will build a complete new one right on top of the old one. This can result in a pile of three or four nests!
Take a look at some interesting locations the females have chosen for nesting here.
At first the female feeds her young a diet of insects. This will mean less activity around your Hummingbird feeder.
But once the youngsters start flying, the action at feeders will be constant. In fact, in mid-summer our backyard often resembles a busy airport with the constant arrival and departure of the hummers.
They swoop and dive about the yard giving us hours of entertainment.
Not to mention what has gone on before with the Hummingbird mating ritual, nesting and raising baby birds.
A beautiful video of a female Annas Hummingbird meticulously crafting her nest.