Hummingbird Life Cycles, Reproduction, and Eggs

Pet Health

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December 27, 2021
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If you are someone who is interested in making your backyard more attractive to hummingbirds, there are many different areas that are going to need to be considered. For one, you will want to make sure that you have the right feeders and mixture of sugar water, with enough bright colors to attract your favorite hummingbird species.

At the same time, you are going to want to make sure that your backyard is the perfect place for hummingbirds to choose to start a family. In order to make your backyard perfect for this, you are first going to have to have a solid understanding of the hummingbird’s life cycle, reproduction cycle, and what it needs to care for its eggs.

The Average Hummingbird Life Cycle

With hummingbirds as small as they are, it is no surprise that they have a relatively short lifespan, even if you disregard accidents and stray animals chasing the birds down. Generally speaking, hummingbirds have an average lifespan that lasts between three and ten years. This range ends up being as varied as it is because of all the different hummingbird species there are.

The most iconic and well-known hummingbird, the ruby-throated hummingbird, has a lifespan that ranges between three and five years, with a record age reaching a month shy of seven years. By comparison, the eldest recorded hummingbird lived a full life of twelve years and two months; that hummingbird’s species was a broad-tailed hummingbird.

Some aspects that affect this process include predation, human interaction, and environmental interaction. A good portion of hummingbirds do not live past the first year of life due to these reasons. Natural predation is the most common cause of an untimely death in hummingbirds, given the number of predators there are that hunt them and how vulnerable fledglings (hummingbirds that are in between being hatched and being able to leave the nest) are.

When Do Hummingbirds Reach Maturity?

If you are interested in learning when do hummingbirds lay eggs, you are first going to need to know when hummingbirds reach maturity by their species’ standards. A hummingbird that is considered mature is able to leave the nest on its own and find a mate, thus beginning the cycle of life. With how short a hummingbird’s average lifespan is, it should come as no surprise that hummingbirds reach sexual maturity incredibly quickly.

Generally speaking, hummingbird babies are confined to their nest for a little under a month. After this, the fledglings are looked after for another month as they learn their way in the world, learning how to find food on their own, how to fly, and everything in between. While the exact amount of time after this varies depending on the species and that species’ lifespan, most hummingbirds will reach sexual maturity within one year or less.

When Is Hummingbird Mating Season?

The mating season for hummingbirds varies depending on a few factors. For one, male and female hummingbirds have different mating practices which begin at slightly different times of the year. The exact time of year depends on the species, once again, so finding an exact answer will be dependent on what kind of hummingbird you want to learn more about.

When looking at things in a general manner, mating season has two steps in the hummingbird world. The first part is for the male hummingbirds, who typically reach their migration destination first after the spring and summer months have begun. Depending on where in the country you are, this can range from mid-March to the end of July. This is when the males will compete for territory and claim areas as their own that they can protect and prepare themselves for the arrival of the female hummingbirds.

Typically, about one week after the male hummingbirds have sorted out territory disputes, the female hummingbirds will begin arriving, ready to select the hummingbird that is deemed the most suitable mate. Hummingbirds do not mate for life, so it is not unsurprising for a single male hummingbird to mate with numerous females over the course of one mating season.

Where Do Hummingbirds Typically Lay Their Eggs?

Now that the female hummingbird is ready to begin producing eggs, she will begin crafting a nest. In some cases and once again depending on the species of the hummingbird, females will build numerous nests and choose a couple days after being mated with. As with most birds, hummingbirds choose to lay their eggs in a well-constructed and sheltered nest.

To a hummingbird, a good nest consists of a nest that is well-protected from the wind, sheltered from weather, and shielded from animals. Common places for these nests include the forks of tree branches nearby food sources and occasionally in abandoned buildings, if the building provides enough shelter from wind, rain, and predators.

How Long Are Hummingbird Eggs Incubated?

When a hummingbird is ready to lay her eggs, she will roost and await labor. There are usually two eggs, with the second egg coming out about one or two days after the first, despite the fact that both eggs should be hatching at the same time. On average, the incubation period for hummingbirds ranges from 16 to 18 days, but it can be a few days shorter or longer depending on a variety of factors.

The eggs will need to be kept at a temperature somewhere around 96 degrees to allow for the embryo to properly develop. As part of this, the mother hummingbird only leaves the nest for around five minutes at a time in search of food, often at an hourly rate. This process ensures that the mother is able to remain nourished and the eggs are able to remain at the ideal temperature.

How Do Hummingbirds Care for Their Young?

After a little over two weeks have passed, the eggs will be ready to hatch. Once the cracks begin forming from the hummingbird’s particularly strong beaks and they are able to be seen by the mother, the mother hummingbird will clean the eggshells from the nest and continue keeping the little babies warm. The baby hummingbird size can range from around 0.7 inches to 1 inch in length, and only a fraction of that in width.

As the baby birds grow and mature, the mother will keep up much the same routine for about three to four weeks, keeping the babies warm as their feathers develop, their eyes open, and they are fed insects and nectar from the mother. Most hummingbirds will have doubled in size by their third day alive and tripled before the eighth, and by the time they are about 25 days old, they can begin venturing out of the nest and exploring the world themselves.

The Takeaway

Hummingbirds, being small and delicate birds that use a tremendous amount of energy to keep their wings beating and record paces among other birds, often live considerably short lives. The oldest records of hummingbirds do not pass 12 years of age, and the average hummingbird lifespan is around half of this.

As such, baby hummingbirds develop rather quickly. Once the hummingbird lays her eggs, often about a week after mating, the baby hummingbirds grow up rapidly and are ready to begin leaving the nest within a month and are often kicked out into adulthood after two months.

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