[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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