Hummingbirds are generally solitary birds, almost to the point of being asocial. They don’t migrate in groups and they don’t feed together. They’re feisty, determined, and, on occasion, downright bullies. However, like all species of the animal kingdom, they do procreate and their mating rituals can be breathtaking to witness.
Mating sky dances
In order to attract mates, male hummingbirds unleash stunning courtship dances. These dances vary from species to species, but are known for bouts of extreme acrobatics. The ruby-throated hummingbird attempts to impress its mate by flying upward of 50 feet and then diving down at top speed, before pulling up at the last moment and making a U-Turn.
The male Calliope Hummingbird rises to a height of 60 to 90 feet, before plummeting to the ground, making an arc and then rising once again. It makes a loud whistle at the bottom of its path.
Other male hummingbirds show off their colors to attract mates, while those with dull plumage often use other methods. Here’s a quote from hummingbird scholar Dr. Augusto Ruschi:
‘The male flies in circles very near the female, above and around her, chirping low as she watches him, turning her head to follow his movements. He approaches more closely and opening his bill sticks out his tongue and lets it drop in an exquisite and ridiculous manner .until the female at last gives signs of potential surrender.’
Feathered Don Juan’s
That’s the term that famous hummingbird scholar Crawford H. Greenewalt used to describe male hummingbirds in his book ‘Hummingbirds.’ Once a male is finished mating with a female, he will head off for more mating, possibly even with birds outside of his species. He will have no contact with the female or the birds once they are born.
A female hummingbird will begin to construct her nest almost immediately after insemination. Hummingbirds are talented nest-builders. The nests they construct are tiny, usually around 1 and ½ inches in diameter. They have down in the inner cup, where the eggs are. Lichen is used on the outside of the nest to provide camouflage and the nest is usually bound together with spider webs.
Once the female has completed the nest, she lays between two and three eggs, which are incubated for 15-17 days.
Hummingbirds are born featherless and are blind during their first few days. They are fed by their mothers, who stick their long beaks down their throats and regurgitate food. Baby hummingbirds will stay in the nest for about three weeks. After that, they’ll be on their own, competing with their mother, siblings and other humminbirds for nectar and hummingbird feeders.
Interested in learning more about hummingbirds? Check out this article on the physical characteristics of hummingbirds.