Hummingbirds are much-loved visitors in the garden. These birds fascinate us with their amazing flying ability and their return year after year on their annual migrations. But how much do we know about baby hummingbirds? Very few people get to see or learn about these tiny creatures.
In this article, I’ll teach you all about:
- Hummingbird eggs
- What baby hummingbirds and hummingbird nests look like
- What to do if you’ve found a baby hummingbird
- How to care for a baby hummingbird until you can get help
Baby Hummingbirds: All You Need To Know
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How Big Are Hummingbird Eggs?
One of the most incredible things about hummingbirds is their small size and ability to survive in the often harsh conditions of nature.
Hummingbird babies hatch from really, really tiny eggs. As a typical example, the white eggs of the well-known Ruby-throated Hummingbird measure just 0.5 inches long and 0.3 inches across, and weigh less than 1/50th of an ounce.
How Long Does It Take For Hummingbird Eggs To Hatch?
Most of the North American hummingbird species raise one or two clutches of 2 eggs in the summer mon
ths. If all goes well, baby hummingbirds take about 2 weeks to hatch from their eggs and then spend another 3 weeks or so in the nest before making their first clumsy flights.
After leaving their cozy nest, they will be fed by their mom for a few more days before being left to fend for themselves out there in the big wide world.
What Do Baby Hummingbirds Look Like?
Hummingbird babies, like many birds, don’t look at all like their parents at first. They hatch as tiny, helpless black chicks with closed eyes and no feathers, except for a row of hair-like structures growing in a line down either side of their backs, and yellowish colored bills.
Baby hummingbirds are cared for by their mothers only, and it’s a tough job, dad doesn’t help at all. Being so helpless after hatching, baby hummingbirds need a lot of care from their mothers in order to survive their first few weeks of life.
What Do Hummingbird Nests Look Like?
A hummingbird’s nest is a tiny cup of very soft plant material held together with spider silk. The walls of the nest are able to stretch and expand as the hummingbird babies grow, keeping the chicks warm and comfortable.
The mother hummingbird builds this cozy little nest from the surface of a branch upwards, rather than hanging down between twigs, as many other birds do. As a finishing touch, she will attach bits of moss, lichen, and plant material to the outside walls of the nest, which really helps it to blend in among the foliage. The whole process usually takes about a week to complete.
These nests are usually built on branches of trees between 6 ft and 40 ft above the ground, depending on the species of hummingbird. Sometimes, mother hummingbird decides to build her nest in less conventional places, like on extension cables, lengths of chain, or wire.
What To Do If You’ve Found A Baby Hummingbird
Unfortunately, baby birds of all sorts are quite often found outside of their nests. If you find one, the first thing you should do before picking it up or attempting to assist it is to ask yourself, does this bird really need my help?
Step back and watch for a while to see if the parents are present and feeding the baby. Often, with young birds, you may be able to see their nest nearby if you look carefully and put them back into it.
If you have pets around or the baby is in immediate danger of being injured where you find it but you can’t find or reach its nest, setting the little bird in the crook or fork of a tree is a good option. Don’t worry, its parents will still feed it after you’ve touched it. Often, baby birds will call out to help their parents find them.
Why Is The Baby Hummingbird Not In Its Nest?
Baby birds with feathers are often found outside of the nest when they start learning to fly and it’s quite normal to find them clumsily hanging onto branches or hopping on the ground.
Sometimes, birds may be blown out of their nests after storms and strong winds, or tree-cutting and gardening may disturb a nest or the babies, and this is when they might need some help.
Unless you’re very experienced and qualified to raise and rehabilitate wildlife, you should not attempt to raise a hummingbird baby yourself and rather try to get it to someone who really knows what they’re doing.
Remember, once you’ve taken the little one away from where you found it and into your care, its mom cannot possibly care for it anymore and the responsibility is all yours.
How To Care For A Baby Hummingbird
In many cases, the best thing you can do for a baby hummingbird is to leave it be and let its mom take care of it. In the case of finding a helpless little hummingbird that is nowhere near ready to fly, you should contact a qualified wildlife rehabilitator in your area. Allow them to advise you on the best course of action. Only attempt to help a baby bird if:
- The baby hummingbird has not begun learning to fly
- You cannot find the baby hummingbirds nest
- The hummingbird baby’s mother is not attempting to feed it
Pick up the bird gently and put it into a warm, dry, and dark area like a cloth-lined box. A dark environment will help the bird to calm down while you prepare to help it further. You should try to contact a qualified wildlife rehabilitator at this point and ask for further instructions.
If, however, you cannot get hold of someone nearby or it will take some time to get the bird to a qualified person, you may need to feed the baby hummingbird to keep it alive since these birds need to be fed very often. Baby hummingbirds need to be fed up to 3 times every hour.
What To Feed A Baby Hummingbird
If the hummingbird baby is very weak and you can’t get it to a rescue center right away, you can give the little bird some nourishment by mixing up some nectar, like you would for the adult birds that visit your feeders. The nectar recipe is 1 part sugar mixed into 4 parts water.
You can feed a few drops of this mixture to the bird 2 or 3 times every hour. It is important to mention that this mixture is not balanced enough to be fed to baby hummingbirds in the long term and is only suitable for a short period in emergencies.
How To Feed A Baby Hummingbird
Baby hummingbirds are fed a special diet of regurgitated insects and nectar by their moms. The mother hummingbird delivers this meal by sticking its beak into the baby’s mouth.
I would not advise trying to feed the hummingbird baby like its mother does and instead, use an eyedropper to let the baby hummingbird feed from a droplet at the end of it, rather than putting the food into the baby’s mouth as its mom would. Baby hummingbirds are so tiny that you could easily injure them if attempting such a delicate operation.
How long does it take a baby hummingbird to fly?
Baby hummingbirds are ready to fly off and leave the nest about 3 weeks after hatching.
Where do baby hummingbirds go after they leave the nest?
Baby hummingbirds don’t go far after leaving the nest because their mom will continue to feed them for another week and a half or so.
How do I identify a baby hummingbird?
It can be difficult to identify a very young hummingbird. They start life as tiny black chicks with no feathers and a yellowish bill. Baby hummingbirds become more easily recognizable after about 2 weeks.
Why do you never see baby hummingbirds?
Hummingbird nests are very small and so well camouflaged that they can be very difficult to see. Hummingbird babies also grow up very quickly so many people never get to see them before they’re grown.
Seeing a nest full of baby hummingbirds is a real treat and a privilege that not many people get to experience. If you attract hummingbirds to your yard and are lucky enough to have them raise babies there, you’ll know what to do if you ever find one out of its nest. Remember, it’s best not to interfere unless you really have to because hummingbird moms are great parents!