Watching a baby hummingbird grow up can be a very rewarding experience. Knowing what to look for will help you understand what the hummingbirds are doing and why they are doing it.
Baby hummingbirds are hatched out of hummingbird eggs. When a mother hummingbird is laying an egg, she can be seen sitting on her nest and shaking alternated by wiggling every few seconds. Mother hummingbirds will usually have two eggs laid on different days. The little eggs will be about the size of a pea or small jellybean. Even though the eggs will be laid on different days, both the eggs will usually hatch on the same day. The mother hummingbird can do this by not completely starting the incubation process until the second egg is laid.
The female hummingbird is the only one who will care for these little eggs. A male hummingbird does not assist with any of the childcare. In fact, if a male hummingbird comes around, the female hummingbird will consider his brightly colored feathers a threat that will attract predators and will chase him away.
The hummingbird eggs will remain in the nest incubating for approximately 16-18 days before they hatch. If the weather is cooler it may cause them to hatch a few days later. While the eggs are incubating in the nest, the mother hummingbird will sit on eggs to keep them at a constant temperature of 96 degrees.
Baby hummingbirds still inside the egg has very strong neck muscles and a little hook on its short bill that will help them peck their way out. These features disappear soon after the baby is born. The mother hummingbird will dispose of the broken egg shells after the baby hummingbirds are hatched.
When the baby hummingbirds hatch, they have no feathers and dark skin. Baby hummingbirds are hatched with their eyes are closed. Depending on the type or species of hummingbird, the little babies will weigh approximately 0.62 grams. That's one-third (1/3) the weight of a United States Dime. They are about one (1) inch long and cannot regulate their own body heat. Their beaks are short, stubby, and yellow.
When the baby hummingbirds are first born, the mother hummingbird will spend most of her time sitting on the nest, keeping the baby hummingbirds warm. As the baby hummingbirds grow more feathers, they are better able to keep themselves warm and the mother hummingbird can spend more time catching bugs and drinking nectar to feed them.
The mother hummingbird will drink nectar and eat bugs and then regurgitate the slurry substance the baby hummingbirds can digest. She will feed this mixture to the baby hummingbirds approximately every twenty (20) minutes. A baby hummingbird needs the mother hummingbird to feed them. Baby hummingbirds can not drink hummingbird nectar like adults do because there is not enough protein in the regular hummingbird nectar. If a baby hummingbird had a diet of only regular hummingbird nectar, the baby hummingbird would become severally crippled, or would die. If you find a sick, injured, or abandoned hummingbird, please read our First-Aid for Baby Hummingbirds section first, before attempting to rescue them.
When a mother hummingbird comes to feed the baby hummingbirds, the baby hummingbirds will feel the wind from the wing of their mother and lift their little heads up and open their mouths. The mother hummingbird will insert her beak all the way down into the mouths of the baby hummingbirds while dropping a little of the regurgitated insects and nectar inside. When the mother hummingbird does this, you can see her throat swell as she pumps the baby food out of her beak in an up and down motion, kind of like a sewing needle on a sewing machine.
Toilet training of baby hummingbirds comes built in. (A definite benefit of being a hummingbird mom.) The baby hummingbirds will do everything they can to dispose of waste over the side of the nest.
Within a couple of days, the size of the baby hummingbirds will almost double. Their beaks will darken slightly and they will start to grow little fuzzy pinfeathers.
After one week, the baby hummingbirds will be covered in tiny little fuzzy feathers making them look like a miniature prickly balls. Baby hummingbirds will usually have enough feathers to regulate their own body heat by about nine (9) days after hatching. The mother hummingbird will no longer need to sit on the nest all the time. This works well since the baby hummingbirds are too big for the mother hummingbird to fit inside the nest anyways.
The baby hummingbirds will start stretching their wings by gripping the floor of the nest with their feet and flapping away. By hanging on to the nest, the baby hummingbirds will not have to worry about accidentally flying away too soon. They will not really fly for another twelve (12) days or so.
By two weeks, the baby hummingbirds are completely covered in pin feathers and are starting to grow real feathers. Their beaks are much longer and are starting to look much darker. They are beginning to look like real birds.
At three weeks of age, the little baby hummingbirds are now looking more like a real hummingbirds. They are testing out their wings more and more in preparation for flight. In the next few days, these little baby hummingbirds will fly away as real adult hummingbirds, never to return back to the nest.
The mother hummingbirds will still feed their fledging for two to three days after leaving the nest. During this time, she will show them all the good places to catch bugs and get nectar. Then she will chase them off to live on their own.
Mother hummingbirds have been known to start to feed an abandoned baby hummingbird that had been placed in her nest or in a nest right next to hers. The space issue seems to work out much better when the nests are placed side by side when the babies are older and no longer need incubation. We always have to wonder what the mother hummingbird thinks when this happens. She went away with two (2) chicks and came back with three (3).
Mother hummingbirds can have more than one brood of baby hummingbirds per season. If a mother hummingbird is going to have two nests per season, it is not uncommon for the mother hummingbird to construct another nest while still feeding her soon to fly away brood. Also, mother hummingbirds have no problem re-using another hummingbird's nest. Sometimes the new mother will move in before the nest has had a chance to cool off from the previous brood.
Baby Hummingbirds are a joy to watch. If you are one of the few people who get to experience this wonder, take lots of photos and enjoy. It is a miracle and you are a truly lucky person to be able to share in the wonders of Baby Hummingbirds and their first adventures.