The Female Rufous Hummingbird Is a Master Nest Builder

Marvels of avian engineering, each nest is only the size of half a walnut.

This audio story is brought to you by BirdNote, a partner of The National Audubon Society. BirdNote episodes air daily on public radio stations nationwide.


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If you’re lucky, and you live West of the Rockies, you’ve seen a courting male Rufous Hummingbird, displaying like a crimson comet. The male mates with any female that graces his well-defended territory of blooming shrubs. 

The duties of nesting fall entirely to the female. 

Her nest-building is a marvel: She first weaves a cup of soft, fluffy plant material. The downy cup, she layers over with moss bound with adhesive strands of spider web. The final touch: layering the outer surface with lichen flakes to provide perfect camouflage. Smaller than a walnut half, the nest soon harbors two eggs the size of shelled peanuts. A favorite nest site is the fork of a downward-drooping twig, perhaps low in a shrub or up higher in an old conifer. 

The female feeds the two nestlings vast quantities of tiny insects as well as some nectar. We think of hummingbirds as nectar-feeders, but they also excel in hawking insects, gleaning aphids from leaves, and pilfering insects from spider webs, while dining on spider eggs and young spiders, too. Mm.m.m….

You can take a peek at her nest on I’m Michael Stein.



Written by Bob Sundstrom

Narrator:  Michael Stein

Producer: John Kessler

Executive Producer: Chris Peterson

Call of the Rufous Hummingbird provided by The Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Display dive sounds with call [109124] recorded by G.A. Keller.  Chatter recorded by W.W.H. Gunn.  For female wing sound we used Anna’s Hummingbird [6121] recorded by A.A. Allen. Ambient recorded by C. Peterson at French Road June Marantz III Track 182. BirdNote's theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.

© 2014 Tune In to     May 2017