Connect to Nature in May

Baby hummingbirds in a nest. Photo by Larry Naylor

There’s no doubt that birds make excellent parents, and in celebration of Mother’s Day, we offer our “Best Bird Mom” award to the hummingbird!

First and foremost, mother hummingbirds have to raise their young entirely on their own. Her mate will play absolutely no role in helping her to build the nest, incubate the eggs or feed the young. He’s not only an absentee father, he can also be a bully that makes her life more difficult every time she comes to the nectar feeder. The odds are stacked against her right from the start!

Our local Allen’s and Anna’s Hummingbirds don’t migrate much and have a long nesting season, from about December through August. Being the sole parent, you would think one nesting would be enough, but she will typically have multiple broods each year. This non-stop commitment to her next generation is truly amazing!

Besides all of the hard work, another factor in this successful nesting rate is the precision and care that a mother hummingbird puts into the construction of her highly camouflaged nest. It takes about a week for her to build a walnut-sized nest. She makes hundreds of trips to collect enough plant down, spider webs, and lichens to finish it. Then, she fills the completed nest with two of the world’s smallest eggs … about the size of small blueberries. But, even with these tiny eggs, mom only weighs a bit more than each of the eggs she lays. A feat unto itself!

You can help hummingbird moms during nesting season by adding nectar-producing plants, such as red fairy-duster and California fuchsia. Also, put out a feeder nearby a nest for easy access and be sure to keep all the spider webs around your yard – they are valuable to your hummingbirds.

Save your pruning for the fall months, as there could now be a bird mom with a nest in your yard.

May is also the time when bird migrants of all colors and sizes move through our area on their way to summer homes. It’s a magical time, as you may hear calls you have never heard before. Some migrants stop long enough to breed, such as the Western Tanager, while others stay just long enough to get some food before moving on.

You can celebrate our travelers on May 14, International Migratory Bird Day, by taking on one helpful action for the birds – reduce light pollution for a safer passage. Billions of birds will travel long distances at night and use the stars for navigation. Turning off excess lighting will darken skies and lessen the confusion during flight caused by artificial lights.

Call the Wild Bird Unlimited Nature Shop at 424-272-9000, or go online to

By Julie Rensink Hanson

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