Working for the Weekend: Invite Hummingbirds to Nest!

Good news, hummingbird lovers! JourneyNorth.org’s migration maps indicate that Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds have now been spotted throughout the Southeast and as far north as Canada. If you don’t have your feeders out, May is the time!
  More than that, though, why not make this the year you invite these little charmers to build a nest in your own yard? Here’s how:

Temperatures Count: Hummingbirds can only nest where the eggs can remain at temperatures below 96 degrees. Because of this, they’ll frequently choose shady areas. They often choose broad-leaved trees where the evaporative qualities of the leaves make the temperature up to 6 degrees cooler.

Takeaway Tip: Those in higher altitudes where temperatures remain cooler can expect to see more nesting hummingbirds. Those in Florida and the Deep South – I’m sorry to say that hummingbirds generally don’t nest in our area.

Hummers Need Shelter: Hummingbird eggs are so very small that they are easily blown around by the wind. For this reason, nests must be located where they’ll be protected from gusts.

Takeaway Tip: Plant broad-leaved trees like maples and oaks to provide the habitat hummingbirds need to nest.

Spiderwebs? Yes, Spiderwebs! The tiny hummingbird nests (often no more than an inch or two wide) are often built from a base of spiderwebs. Their sticky nature allows the birds to shape the bowl that they’ll cover with seeds, pieces of bark, and other materials to camouflage the nest among the branches.

Takeaway Tip: Leave the spiderwebs in your yard! Spiders are beneficial in a garden anyway, and once they’ve abandoned a web, you can leave it up during hummingbird nesting season to help the birds out.

Downy Soft: Hummingbirds line the insides of the their nests with soft materials like moss, leaves, and cotton. The small eggs are only half an inch in diameter and need all the protection they can get. It takes hummingbirds about a week to build a nest, and they will frequently steal from other hummingbirds nearby.

Takeaway Tip: Offer soft nesting materials like cotton and dryer lint to encourage hummingbirds to nest. An easy solution is the Hummer Helper Cage filled with nesting materials.

I’m sure it goes without saying that hummingbird parents will only build where they have a steady source of food, so be sure you’re offering a garden full of hummingbird nectar plants or hummingbird feeders that are cleaned and filled regularly. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t see nesters your first year – the nests are tiny and very hard to spot, but they may be there all the same. Click here to read one Birds and Blooms reader’s experience with these elusive nests if you need some encouragement.

Do you have nesting hummingbirds in your yard? Tell us about your experiences and offer tips to others in the comments section below!

Every Thursday, the Working for the Weekend segment highlights a project or job for Southeastern gardeners to tackle in the weekend ahead. Know of a project you’d like to see featured here, or a garden chore you’d like some help with? Make your suggestions in the comments section below.

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