[Tweeters] Re: Anna's Hummingbird nest

Pterodroma at aol.com Pterodroma at aol.com
Sat Feb 25 11:01:34 PST 2006

Linda & other hb nest finding tweets --

Congratulations! Now, how to watch it and her without causing undo
disturbance. First of all, it depends on how high off the ground. If it's much
above eye level, I probably wouldn't do anything more than just be satisfied
watching if from where you and her feel comfortable. Nest building and
incubating Anna's Hummingbirds are very tolerant and quite confiding and from my
experience I have never caused a bird to abandon. If it's way high, say 15 or 20
feet or more, there really nothing to worry about by just standing under it,
but beyond that, you should just leave it be.

Having found and observed more than 60 nests (60% Anna's, 40% Allen's) over
the past 12 Springs in the thick wind blown, twisted, and sculpted groves of
stunted Monterey Cypress around the Point Piedras Blancas Lighthouse (San
Luis Obispo Co., California), many of those nests are right at eye level and
well below in some cases. Most memorable was the one about 4 feet above the
ground and only one foot outside the living room window of our old and converted
Coast Guard housing living quarters near the lighthouse. Undisturbed
viewing doesn't get any better than that which included the very first moments of
hatching and the moment of fledging viewed and shared by all right from the
cozy comforts of the living room! The lowest nest I've ever found was an
Allen's about two feet off the ground while the average for both Anna's and
Allen's down there is around six feet.

As for the others, and if you know exactly where it is every time you go to
take a look, more often than not, she will just sit there tight incubating or
keeping newly hatched chicks warm and she won't fly off unless you've gotten
too close or she may have just decided independently to dash off for a quick
snack. If she's on the nest, I leave her alone. If she's not, she won't be
gone long, and if I did happen to unintentionally flush her off the nest,
she won't be gone long either. If she's not on the nest when you come to look
or inspect the nest's progress, she will probably fly in and buzz about from
nearby tree to tree and branch to branch and you will always know immediately
by the incessant 'clicking'. If you just stand or sit down quietly a few
feet away, she will soon settle right down on the nest.

I have to my knowledge never been cause for nest failure and take great care
not to cause such. Some nests do fail when they have been discovered by
various prowling predators, down there, namely crows and Brewer's Blackbirds,
and in at least one case, a Bobcat I think, but wind is the usual culprit at Pt.
Piedras Blancas since it can be hellishly punishing at that tremendously
exposed lighthouse site. It has always amazed me that these tiny things would
ever choose to nest on that exposed point at all where the relentless
northwest winds are strong and COLD, yet without exception, they nest in the least
sun exposed parts of the groves. In most cases but not all, it's at least on
the leeward side but always in the shade which is always cold no matter what.
Why, I wondered? For one, the selected site is usually somewhat protected
from the worst wrath of the wind, and second, in the shade instead of the sun
because the cooler shade allows the incubating and young rearing
temperatures to be better controlled by the mother instead of taking a baking by direct
or indirect sun whether she's on the nest or not.

I must say, one of the most wondrous events to behold in all nature is to
actually witness the very first moments of a tiny hummingbird to first start
peeking through one of those miniature jelly bean sized eggs and struggle it's
way out. It's rather spiritual actually. No less fascinating is the moment
of fledging when the young bird on it's very own decides the time has come
for that first flight of fate. It's actually very graceful. The ever growing
fledgling(s) haven't been testing and strengthening their wings and muscles
during all this time of patient day after day after day sitting in the nest.
At least I have never seen it and it would seem like I would have at least
once in all these years of close monitoring. Without a hint that something
imminent is about to happen, they just suddenly and simply lift off and float
away with coarse buzzing wings (sounds kind of like a dragonfly) alight with
slightly less grace on a nearby branch. And there, it may just sit for as
much as several days as the female continues to feed it from time to time until
it too has matured enough to start learning the art and craft of fending for
itself. Pretty amazing stuff I must say that never fails to capture my
utter fascination. Time in the nest after hatching ranges from around 18-23 days.

A few other observations I have noted over the years is that often the first
egg is laid even long before the nest is complete. The first time I
stumbled upon just a flat platform (foundation) and found a single egg, I first
thought it was an accident. As days progressed, the nest got bigger and after a
few days and the nest of woven lichen and spider webbing was of sufficient
size and more cup shaped, the second egg appeared. The nest is continually
being expanded and upgraded through the whole incubation process which averages
about 14-19 days for each egg, thus the first one may hatch a day or two or
few apart. Egg laying must be either an intense and/or maybe even a private
matter as in all cases, eggs were laid during the night. Both incubation time
and fledgling time in the nest at Pt. Piedras Blancas tend toward the longer
end of the range, even a little longer in some instances at that location
perhaps because of the persistent ocean borne wind and cold. The longest
incubation period I observed down there was 28 days and during that long wait, I
was beginning to think the eggs were infertile until the new chicks finally
popped out.

As time went on and more nests were observed, I discovered another
interesting aspect. Once the young hatch, the female immediately starts building
another nest for the next family. So, in essence, she can be alternating feeding
one brood and nest building for the next. Once the first fledglings are
large enough and in need of increasingly less close attendance apart from
feeding, she can spend much of her days and nights continuing the secondary nest
building and incubating the next pair of eggs.

She is a busy busy little bird, ...and a single Mom. The males have
absolutely nothing to do with anything apart from copulation. Period. Bye. In
fact they don't even ever come out on that cold wind swept point for anything
other than the day or two it takes to mate, then they are long gone across the
road and over the hills into the coastal chaparral or beyond where it's all
nice and sunny, toasty warm, and flowery. Meanwhile, Mom is left behind all
by herself building the nest, dealing with the eggs, raising the young,
feeding herself, and starting a second nest and brood simultaneous with the first
one. Even in the worst case, I don't think many humans even have to deal with
this, or at least do it well.

As for taking baby pictures. That can be very difficult to do without
causing some kind of disturbance. Chances are they won't be very good and won't
show much. I would probably advise not or at least not until the fledglings
are more grown and have gained some degree of independence. But even then, it
could be unnecessarily risky and you might inadvertently cause a bird to
fledge prematurely, in which case you will feel guilty about it for the rest of
your life because you may never know what eventually happened to it.

Richard Rowlett
Bellevue (Eastgate), WA, USA

"Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what
nobody has thought" --Albert Szent-Gyorgi (1893-1986).

Subject: Anna's Hummingbird nest
From: Linda Phillips <sweetmem AT juno.com>
Date: Sat, 25 Feb 2006 07:57:24 -0800

I am going to change the focus of our Hummingbird thread. I encountered a

very agitated female Anna's while I was out for a walk. It occurred to me

she was protesting because I was near her nest. So of course I searched

until I found it. I can't see inside and she did not stay on the nest so

I'm not sure if she has laid her eggs yet.

I am interested in watching as this family grow but I don't want to cause

her to abandon the nest. Do any of you know rules of nest watching

etiquette? How close can I safely view the nest? How often can I check on

it? Can I take pictures of the babies?

Linda Phillips

Kenmore 98028-2616

sweetmem AT juno.com

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