Out of the corner of my eye I see a fluttering movement in the green of the forest and when I espy a hummingbird, I’m not surprised, as there are a number of species who bless us with their presence during the summer months. My slightly nonchalant sensation changes once I watch this female dive under a leafy scrub oak canopy and remain hidden. When I detect a little cup underneath her my heartbeat quickens. She is sitting on a nest!
I call out to my husband, who is a few paces ahead of me on the narrow trail that winds through the higher reaches of Cheyenne Mountain State Park, where we are hiking on this July 4 morning. When Mrs. Broadtail floats into the air again, likely disturbed by our presence, we snatch a quick glimpse (and a photo) of the inside of the nest. It contains two nondescript white eggs the size and shape of jelly beans. We are smitten. After we retreat to a distance that makes her feel safe, she returns to her nest, and I snap a few more images of the artistic and attractive little nursery she has fashioned out of the naturally available building materials.
According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology:
Females build and tend the nests alone. She forms the nest cup by twisting the material around with her body and feet while sitting in the nest. The thick inner cup is made out of spiderweb and gossamer, and after forming the cup, she camouflages the outside of it with bits of lichen, moss, and bark fragments. It takes about 4–5 days for her to build a nest, less if built upon a previous nest. The nest has an outer diameter of about 2 inches and a 0.8-inch inside diameter, but it stretches as the chicks grow, becoming more platform shaped. Sometimes the female will reuse a nest from a previous season, adding fresh material to what was left.
Broad-tailed Hummingbirds incubate their eggs for 16 to 19 days and their offspring stay in the nest for 21 to 26 days before they fledge. With a fuller heart we take our leave, bidding her and her two precious packages Godspeed, fully intending to check in on them in the next couple of weeks.
PS: The nest is visible in the center of the featured photo on top, in case you missed it the first time.