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Friday, May 17, 2013

Hummingbird courtship

Have you ever witnessed the courtship ritual of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds? I have seen it described in print and had even seen it on a television show about hummingbirds, but I had never actually witnessed it in Nature. Until this week.

I was sitting on my patio in the late afternoon a couple of days ago, watching the male and female hummingbird who currently share my backyard as they visited feeders and blossoms and chased each other around the yard. Then all at once the chase ended and the female perched while the male went into this weird pendulum-like flight pattern. He would fly high into the air and then drop suddenly toward the ground but before he reached the ground, he made a U-shaped arc and flew high into the air again before dropping toward the earth and doing the whole routine over. While he was doing this, he made a kind of whirring sound. He did this several times, possibly as many as seven or eight - I was too mesmerized to count. I don't know whether the female hummer was impressed, but I certainly was!

I didn't observe the two mating, but I hope the female did accept the the little male and that she will stay and nest in my yard. If she does, she'll be much on her own. Once mating is over, the male considers his family responsibilities done. The female builds the nest, broods the eggs, and feeds and protects the two babies until fledged. Incubation lasts from 11-16 days and the young stay in the nest for another 20-22 days before flying.

Somewhat surprisingly, I think, these hummers can produce multiple broods during the summer. They may have two broods, or occasionally even three.

I know that hummers do nest in my yard but I've never been lucky enough to actually discover a nest while in use. The nests are quite small, of course, and are usually built on a horizontal limb with lots of leafy cover. After seeing that exciting display of courtship behavior, I am certainly going to be on the lookout for one of those tiny nests. Maybe I'll get lucky again.    


  1. Isn't it amazing? I have never seen this kind of hummingbird behavior until recently. There is a black chinned male hummingbird that has exhibited this behavior twice in my backyard. He pretty much has claimed my yard as his territory. I've seen a couple of females, but after his courtship exhibition, I haven't seen the females. Hopefully, they are sitting on a nest somewhere.

    Hope you get a chance to find the nest. It would be so much fun seeing those baby hummers.

    1. Yes, that would be fantastic. Fingers crossed!