Baby Hummingbirds: (Egg to Fledgling)

Observing a baby hummingbird grow from a tiny little egg to an inexperienced adult is an extraordinary occurrence to witness.

Understanding the remarkable stages of a new generation of baby hummingbirds will captivate and spark an appreciation for their struggles and successes to integrate successfully into their modern society.

What month do hummingbirds have their babies?

May is the most frequent month for hummingbirds to lay eggs. Hummingbirds may have several broods per year starting as early as February in Southern California to as late as November in their winter location. Most migrating hummingbirds lay eggs within 5 days of destination arrival, but not during migration.

Hummingbirds living in or migrating to the colder climates have shorter periods of spring and summer. These cooler climate hummingbirds will modify their nesting activity, frequently down to one brute a year.

Non-migrating hummingbirds, who reside year-round, have more liberty as to when they lay their eggs. Mother nature or their own internal biological clock will tell the female when the conditions are right to lay her eggs.

Allen hummingbirds are an example of a non-migrating Southern California hummingbird. They have been documented laying eggs in November and by February they are ready to kick the new year off with an early nest of new eggs.

Unfortunately, mother hummingbirds are the sole care and provider for her babies. Once the female is impregnated by the male the countdown of time begins for her to build her nest.

Eggs are growing inside of her while she determines the perfect location to build a nest while frantically gathers nesting materials.

What is the size of a hummingbird egg?

Hummingbird eggs are roughly the size of a coffee bean and weigh between 0.4 grams to 1.4 grams. A hummingbird egg weighs a little more than an average small metal paperclip, which weighs roughly 1 gram. These white eggs are less than ½ inch long in length.

Two perfectly sized oval eggs nestle together in a newly comfortably constructed nest. They constantly need to be kept warm by their mother but not overheat to survive the incubation process successfully.

How long does it take for a hummingbird egg to hatch?

Incubation starts after the second egg is laid and lasts 14 to 18 days, sometimes as long as 21 days in colder weather. A female hummingbird can raise up to three to five broods in a nesting season. The female lays an egg on the first day, rests a day, then lays another for a total of 2 eggs. On occasion, you may find a nest with only one egg.

Hummingbird eggs have a better chance of survival when 2 eggs are laid. They rely on each other’s heat to stay warm during the stages of being an egg to when they hatch.

There are times when a hummingbird nest will only have one egg. Born naked, not having any feathers to keep warm, and lacking body heat from a potential sibling decreases their chances of survival.

A mother hummingbird will incubate her eggs and keep them heated at a proper temperature between 96 and 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit.

It is very important to distribute the heat evenly around the eggs so as not to “overcook” them, ensuring success in proper development. A few degrees of fluctuation in temperature can spell disaster for the baby chicks and can mean the difference between life and death within 15 to 30 minutes.

Throughout the incubation process, the mother hummingbird will use her beak and feet to turn the eggs over several times a day to prevent the eggs from overheating.

The incubation process can sometimes take longer by a few days in colder weather and can create a less stable environment for the chicks and make them weak.

The physical act of sitting on the eggs to incubate and transfer heat from her underbelly region to her eggs is called “brooding”. The term brooding is a behavior where birds sit on their eggs to incubate them and is different than using the word brood as a noun, referring to a family of offspring.

During brooding, the mother hummingbird sits quietly on her nest while exhibiting characteristics of daydreaming or being in a deep trance.

Out of every hour, the mother will spend 50 to 55 minutes sitting on her eggs, which means she only has 5-10 minutes during that time to stretch and acquire some nutrition.

Once the internal core temperature consistently reaches and maintains 100 degrees Fahrenheit this signals the appropriate time for the eggs to hatch. Baby hummingbirds are born with strong neck muscles. They also have a sharp curved hook at the end of their beak to help them break through the eggshell.

After the baby hummingbirds hatch, the mother will dispose of the broken shells over the side of the nest and if you are lucky you will be able to spot a tiny thin shell on the ground to save as a souvenir.

20170221 104517 Egg shell
Egg shell from a baby Anna’s hummingbird

What is the size of a baby hummingbird?

A newly hatched hummingbird will weigh roughly 0.62 grams, which is comparable to weighing less than a stick of gum. Their size is 2 cm long or less than 1 inch in length. The bare-naked chick has no feathers yet and heavily relies on the mother or its siblings for extra body heat.

Two warm bodies heating the nest are always better than one in order to properly survive. As the babies begin to develop and double in size they will begin to gain pin feathers within the first week.

The babies continue to grow and completely fill the nest. By this time they produce more pin feathers, aiding in regulating their own body temperature and allowing the mother to spend less time on the nest and more time searching for food.

In 14 days, the baby hummingbirds are completely covered in pin feathers and their eyes begin to open.

By day 18, we see feathers growing out of their pin feathers and their eyes are fully open.

Twenty four days after birth the hummingbird babies are very large and are popping out of the nest. By this time the baby hummingbirds are more alert and their eyes are wide open.

As the hummingbird babies grow they produce a lot of waste material. The babies do not like to sleep in their excrement. Nobody likes to sleep in a dirty bed. They prefer a clean environment and dispose of their waste by putting their butts in the air and squirting or shooting out dark poop material that is visibly seen near or around the nest.

What do baby hummingbirds eat?

Baby hummingbirds are fed an easily digestible regurgitated formula of bugs and nectar from their mother’s crop. The stored uneaten food in the mother’s crop sits and waits patiently until she returns home to transfer her food to her young. Protein from bugs makes up the bulk of the diet.

Hummingbird babies have a hefty appetite. They require a higher protein and fat ratio rich and heavy in nutrients encouraging the nourishment and growth of these maturing babies.

These special ingredients are tailored towards a young hummingbird’s diet resembling a mushy consistency and texture and are consumed regularly by their offspring.

An all nectar diet does not have enough nutrients to sustain the development and growth of baby hummingbirds.

How does a mother hummingbird feed her babies?

A mother hummingbird feeds her babies by expelling a regurgitated bolus of bugs and nectar into the mouths of the baby hummingbirds. She uses her crop which is part of the esophagus, not the stomach, to deposit the pulposus texture of nutrients into her young every 15 to 20 minutes.

The crop is an enlarged esophagus, a part of the bird’s digestive tract that stores food for a limited period of time. This part of the bird’s anatomy is a muscular pouch that expands near the throat.

This biological trait is useful for a mother hummingbird to gather and store a large amount of food in her crop in a short amount of time when food is available. At a later and more convenient date, she can attend her stored food when she is safe or ready to feed her offspring.

In an effort to regurgitate, the mother hummingbird will bob and move her head and neck up and down as if she were to throw up and transfer the undigested matter into the hungry mouths of her young.

Here is a video clip of a mother hummingbird feeding her babies. In this video, the babies are older and their eyes are open.

Initially, when their eyes are still closed, baby hummingbirds rely heavily on their sense of hearing and their sense of touch.

In an effort to gauge when the mother hummingbird is arriving to the nest with food the babies wait in anticipation listening for familiar chirps and feeling the vibrations of air produced by her wings.

When the mother hummingbird has made contact with her babies they quickly lift their heads from resting (with their eyes closed), opening their mouths to prepare themselves for receiving food. The mother hummingbird will grip the side of the nest with her claws while she thrusts her beak down her babies throats and regurgitates her food.

If you have never witnessed this in action, it can be a scary sight!

At first glance, it looks like the mother is violently choking her babies or even potentially hurting them. But rest assured she is not harming them. She is only doing her job and filling the bellies of her babies. The mother hummingbird will continue to feed her babies this regurgitated mixture for the next 3 weeks.

When the baby hummingbirds become adolescents, they will continue to rely on their mother for food and will continue to feed on the regurgitated mixture from mom while also learning how to locate their own food.

How long does it take for a baby hummingbird to fly?

From hatching to fledging it takes approximately 3-4 weeks for a baby hummingbird to perfect the art of flying. During this time the babies practice cleaning their feathers while stretching and strengthening their muscles and continue to test their wings in preparation for flight. Two more weeks of training are mandated after fledging.

A little after 3 weeks baby hummingbirds are ready to practice the motion of flying. They have tripled in size and are competing for space in the nest.

While perfecting their craft of flying baby hummingbirds tend to hit their siblings in the face with their wings. This rewarding and invigorating challenge makes them extremely excited to show off their new profound skill set.

They proudly flap their wings pretending to feel like an adult even though they are still gripping the side of the nest for stability.

When do hummingbird babies leave the nest?

From 18-22 days (about 3 weeks) after hatching, baby hummingbirds will fledge the nest. These tiny babies have turned into juvenile hummingbirds. The total cycle from an egg being laid to babies leaving the nest is 5-6 weeks or (35-42 days) total.

Twenty-six days after birth is when the first baby hummingbird will fledge the nest.

After the third week, the baby hummingbirds are ready to fully test their wings for flight. One hummingbird baby will stay in the nest, while the other one exits from a cramped nest to perfect their newly accomplished flying capabilities on a nearby branch. Sometimes one sibling will have more courage than the other and will fly out of the nest first.

Occasionally the second baby who is left behind will need a few more days to gather up their courage to follow in their sibling’s footsteps.

Once both hummingbird babies have left, they will never return to their nest.

Their next task as young adults is to locate their mother by verbally communicating through tiny chirping sounds stating their location and when they want to be fed.

The mother will continue to feed her children and teach them how to locate their own food for 1-2 weeks after they have fledged or left the nest.

Leaving their old world behind, these adolescent hummingbirds embark on their new travels and adventures!

Final thoughts:

A hummingbird’s journey from an egg to fledgling is one of the most remarkable events in nature to witness.

The journey begins in early spring to May when a female hummingbird lays 1-2 navy bean-sized eggs. Once the second egg is laid the incubation time begins between 14- 18 days.

Baby hummingbirds eat regurgitated nectar and insects from their mother’s mouth every 20 minutes. They start feeding before their eyes are even open and can feel the wind of their mother’s wings when she reaches the nest and opens their mouths on command in anticipation of food.

As the babies grow, stretch, clean and strengthen their wing muscles in preparation for flight they eventually get the courage to fledge the nest closer to 4 weeks after they have hatched.

One to two weeks after successfully fledging the nest the mother will continue to feed and teach her babies how to find food until they become self-sufficient adults.

Observing successful stories and providing baby hummingbirds a chance to tell their tale is a very rewarding experience. These young adolescent hummingbirds will one day create families of their own and contribute to the next generation.

Happy Hummingbird Watching!

Backyard Visitors

Hi Everyone! I have always loved our backyard and have been fascinated with all the wildlife living there. I am especially amazed by the skill, strength, and beauty of hummingbirds. I hope this article answered your questions.

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