A Brilliant Work of Art

Yesterday afternoon while playing basketball on my driveway, I noticed a speedy buzzing creature. It was a female Ruby-throated Hummingbird. She flew around some, checking the scene out, before landing in her nest on the fork of a branch of the massive Red Maple to the right of the basketball hoop! I had no idea that there was a nest there, so it was quite a surprise. She flew away just as soon as she came. I immediately stopped playing, grabbed my camera and binoculars and stood still as stone while I awaited her return. Sure enough, within a minute, she was back, this time landing on a branch above the nest before dropping down to continue warming her petite eggs.

She spent six to ten days constructing the nest out of dandelions or thistle held together with spider webs and camouflaging the outside with lichen and moss. She formed the walls of the two-inch-wide, inch-deep nest by mushing the outermost material between her chest and neck. She would have stepped on the bottom to make it firm as well. The nest alone is a work of art that requires a skilled and assiduous individual. She then fills the nest with one to three glowing white pearls about a half a gram each, which would hatch into altricial chicks 12 to 14 days later. She will, as her instincts mandate, fly back and forth between a food source and the nest for 18-22 days constantly feeding and protecting her young. After her babies leave the nest and her job as a parent is complete (for now), she might go on to have one more brood during the same season. And what’s more – the male is not around to help with any of this. He leaves the female right after mating. This is quite a lot to ask of a bird that only weighs about 4 grams and must beat its wings 50 times per second in flight to take on alone!

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The female on her beautiful nest

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