A few days in the lives of baby hummingbirds

Posted By Mike Padgett

March 14, 2015

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – The tiniest sword swallowers are gone. Over 10 days, I watched them grow. I was a spectator until they launched themselves from a nest the size of an empty walnut shell.


I spotted the nest the morning of March 3. A hummingbird hovered nearby before flying to a bump on a tree branch. I walked slowly toward the iridescent jewel of nature and discovered the bump was its nest. After she flew away, a single tiny beak popped up over the edge of the nest.


Photo copyright © by Mike Padgett


Over the next several days, I approached the nest slowly. I hoped to document – with photos – the first days in the life of hummingbirds. The tree was next to our driveway and the sidewalk, so the hummingbird was familiar with my daily routine and occasional joggers.


These magical birds in recent years have treated me with several close encounters. They have no fear, probably because of their speed. Once, while standing in our courtyard, a hummingbird hovered within inches of my face. Maybe it was attracted by its reflection in my sunglasses.


Over a period of several days, I watched two chicks grow rapidly. First, I could see only the tips of their tiny black beaks poking over the edge of the nest. Soon, their beaks were longer. Next, I could see the tops of their heads. I watched the mother feeding them a diet of nectar and insects.





                          Photo copyright © by Mike Padgett


A few times, mother hummer returned while I was watching her nest. I captured images of her feeding her chicks. Her shiny black needle-like beak disappearing down their throats reminded me of the circus posters of sword swallowers.

I photographed the nest almost every day. Mornings offered the best light. Nine days after I discovered the nest, the chicks were spilling out of the nest. Soon, they gripped the nest with their tiny claws as they exercised their wings.



Photo copyright © by Mike Padgett


The nest’s location in the tree offered only one ideal spot from which to shoot photos. After feeding its young, the mother usually sat on the edge of its nest for a few seconds. A few times, it flew towards me. It hovered close to me and my camera at my face. I stood motionless.


The tiny bird stayed within arm’s length for a few seconds before zipping to a nearby branch. It preened its brilliant green feathers or stretched its wings. Then it vanished to retrieve more food for its babies. The father has no role in the care and feeding of its young, according to www.worldofhummingbirds.com.



Photo copyright © by Mike Padgett


On March 12, nine days after I discovered them, the young birds appeared to be ready for their first flight. Near sunset, I went to check on them a fourth time that day. Walking on the driveway, something to my left flew away from me and up into the tree. It appeared to struggle to gain altitude. I thought it was a large insect. But when it landed on a branch, I recognized it as one of the chicks. Then I spotted the mother and the other chick sitting on nearby branches.


I returned for my camera. One of the babies appeared less active than the other. It sat alone in the fork of a branch. I worried that it wouldn’t survive the night.


But the next morning, at sunrise and with my second cup of coffee, I saw that its sibling had joined it. I left to grab my camera. The day was cloudy, which meant photographing birds against a white sky. Ugh.



Photo copyright © by Mike Padgett


The babies stayed huddled while I captured more images. They faced opposite directions on the branch. For what became the last time, they tolerated me with my camera. Soon, the mother returned to feed them.



Photo copyright © by Mike Padgett


By late afternoon, they were gone. The empty nest was the only hint at the start of new lives.



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Mar 14th, 2015

2 Comments to 'A few days in the lives of baby hummingbirds'

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  1. Peg Hodges said,

    How fascinating to get so close to these tiny birds and document their growth.

  2. Lesley said,

    thanks for this, Mike, what a lovely, fascinating posting and pictures!

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