Looking at tiny hummingbirds flitting about around your feeders or in your garden or surrounding area, you might wonder how small the eggs must be. As you may well have guessed, everything about these birds is on a minuscule scale – their eggs included.
How Big Are Hummingbird Eggs?
Hummingbirds’ eggs are astonishingly small and light. Weighing in at just 1/50th of an ounce or so, these tiny eggs show that great things can come in very small packages. These tiny receptacles for new life are often compared to jelly beans in size.
However, there are more than 350 different hummingbird species in the western hemisphere. And the size of the eggs varies a little depending on the species.
At the smallest end of the size range is the Bee hummingbird egg, found only in Cuba. These hummingbirds lay eggs that are only the size of a coffee bean.
The Ruby-throated hummingbird egg weighs just half a gram – around 1/5th the weight of a penny.
The largest hummingbird, the nine-inch long Giant hummingbird, lays eggs that are large for the species – but still only around the length of a penny.
While these eggs may seem very small, as a proportion of the weight of the adult female that laid them, they are surprisingly large.
An American robin, for example, lays eggs that are around 3.6% of its body weight. But the Ruby-throated hummingbird’s eggs are nearly 17% of their body weight.
What Do Hummingbird Eggs Look Like?
Hummingbird eggs are typically dull white – relatively non-descript and inconspicuous – and ovoid in shape. They are not patterned or colored brightly like the eggs of many other birds.
Since white eggs help keep the embryonic hummingbirds cool, scientists believe that modern hummingbirds’ eggs may have evolved to keep the embryos from getting too hot.
When Do Hummingbirds Lay Eggs?
Most female hummingbirds will lay their eggs one, two, or three times a year, depending on the species.
Ruby-throated hummingbirds and other migratory species have only one brood each year. However, they may sometimes try a second time if their first, early attempt was unsuccessful.
Anna’s hummingbirds, which live and breed year-round in Pacific Coast states, may often have two or three broods annually. The same is true for species that live year-round in the tropics.
The time of year when hummingbirds lay their eggs depends on the species and the location.
In the eastern US, the sole breeding hummingbird is the Ruby-throated hummingbird. These birds will typically lay their eggs between March and June – earlier further south and later to the north, since the laying time will depend, among other things, on the time when birds arrive on their northward migration.
In the west, timings for breeding and egg-laying can vary significantly. Costa’s hummingbird, for example, will typically lay between February and June, While Rufous hummingbirds tend to lay their eggs between April and July.
How Many Eggs Do Hummingbirds Lay?
Hummingbirds will often lay a couple of eggs. They can lay just a single egg, or they may lay three. However, two is typical for most hummingbird species.
Where Do Hummingbirds Lay Their Eggs?
Like most other bird species, hummingbirds will lay their eggs in nests. Female hummingbirds are responsible for building the nests and tending young.
They tend to make their nests on horizontal, downward-facing branches in trees and shrubs – often favoring native deciduous tree and shrub species and choosing a nesting site close to water.
What Do Hummingbirds Nests Look Like and How Big Are They?
Hummingbird nests tend to be just a few inches in diameter, making them the smallest birds’ nests in the world.
They are often difficult to spot, camouflaged to blend into the surrounding vegetation, and hidden away from prying eyes and predators.
The female hummingbird constructs her nest from grasses, twigs, and other plant materials, weaving these together and holding them in place with spider silk. She forms the bird nest in layers, tamps down the materials, and shapes them using her feet. She often uses soft materials like thistledown or dandelion heads to line the nest and lichen or other materials to disguise the outside.
How Long Does It Take Hummingbird Eggs To Hatch?
Depending on the species, female birds will usually sit on and incubate their eggs for 2-3 weeks. She will have to put her energy into keeping the eggs warm – especially when nesting in cooler climates. So she will only be able to make occasional forays to find food for herself.
How Big Are Hummingbird Chicks?
Baby hummingbirds hatch from the eggs almost entirely featherless and with their eyes closed. They are completely dependent on the mother bird for both warmth and food. However, these tiny chicks develop rapidly in preparation for fledging and their first flights in the weeks that follow.
These tiny chicks are incredibly small when first hatched, usually weighing less than a dime. Their feet are so tiny that they cannot stand at first. They won’t grow their feathers until they are around three weeks old.
Most baby hummingbirds will be fed and tended by their mother for around a month, perhaps up to two months for some tropical species. She will gather nectar and insects for them to eat and regurgitate them into their mouths.
Amazingly, considering how young and small these wonderful birds are, hummingbird chicks, once fledged, will often undertake the long fall migration to the south and are ready to be entirely independent.