Hummingbird Nest Facts

Attracting hummingbirds is even more fun when you find a hummingbird nest. Learn where to look.

Like a crown jewel, the nest of a hummingbird is one of the great wonders in all of nature. They are so tiny, yet so perfect. Few of us have ever seen a hummingbird nest. This is because they are nearly impossible to find. From the ground, they look like another bump on a branch. From above, an umbrella of leaves conceals them. And from the side, they look like a tiny knot, quilted with lichens, plant down and fibers. Though each of the 17 hummingbird species that breed in North America builds slightly different nests in various habitats, they have much in common.

Hummingbird Nest Facts

This photo shows the size of a hummingbird nest compared to a quarter.

Basic Hummingbird Nest Facts

Females build their nests 10 to 90 feet high, generally in trees or shrubs (with a few exceptions).

Hummingbirds build velvety, compact cups with spongy floors and elastic sides that stretch as the young grow. They weave together twigs, plant fibers, and bits of leaves, and use spider silk as threads to bind their nests together and anchor them to the foundation.

Hummingbird eggs are about the size of navy beans. Most females lay two eggs, which they incubate for 15 – 18 days.

Juvenile hummingbirds fledge (leave the nest) 18 to 28 days after hatching.

Attracting Hummingbirds to Nest

Any hummingbird lover knows that adding nectar plants to your garden is an important part of attracting hummingbirds. But these tiny creatures rely on a different set of plants for nesting materials. Add some of these to your garden to encourage hummingbirds to nest nearby.

Trees and Shrubs: Hummingbirds don’t use nest boxes or tree cavities. Instead they generally build their nests in sheltered trees or shrubbery, often in a fork of branches. Enhance your own hummingbird habitat by growing a diversity of leafy trees and large shrubs that provide shelter at varying heights. And if you want to get more bang for your buck, plant catkin-bearing trees and shrubs, which provide soft plant fibers for nesting material. Some examples of these include willows, witch hazel, alder, American elm, cottonwood, ironwood, poplar, birch, beech, mulberry and maple.

Hummingbird Nest Facts

Broad Billed Hummingbird collecting nest material. Diane Richards

Hummingbird eggs are cradled in soft fluffy fibers that hummingbirds choose from plants nearby. Add plants with fuzzy foliage like Lamb’s Ear (Stachys byzantine), which forms dense, ground-hugging rosettes of thick, soft, woolly leaves. The silken plumes of ornamental grasses are also useful in attracting hummingbirds looking to nest. Some plants have seed heads or pods that transform into fuzzy balls of soft fiber, or are encased in soft protective casings. Examples include clematis, honeysuckle, milkweed (Asclepias species) and blanket flower (Gaillardia species). Pasque flowers offer both soft foliage with silken hairs, and mid-spring flowers followed by fuzzy seedpods.

Hummingbird Nest Characteristics by Species

While these are the basics for hummingbird nests, it is interesting to see what makes each of these species unique. Hal Harrison studied hummingbird nests for decades – here are some of his observations.

Hummingbird Nest Facts

Note the inward-curving edge of this Black-Chinned Hummingbird nest.Michael R Duncan

Anna’s hummingbird females build a mere platform as early as December to lay her eggs. Then she builds up the nest while incubating.

Black-Chinned hummingbird nests are deep cups, and the rim may be curved inward.

Blue-throated hummingbird nests are often built on electric wire inside or outside of cabins.

Broad-billed hummingbirds will build their loosely constructed nests on clotheslines.

Broad-tailed hummingbirds often returns to same nesting site year after year.

Calliope hummingbirds will build a series of two, three or even four nests on top of one another, often attached to a conifer cone.

Costa’s hummingbirds will colonize at favorable sites with as many as six nests in a 100-foot radius. The birds are very tame at nesting sites.

Magnificent hummingbirds build the largest and highest of North American hummingbird nests.

Ruby-throated females attach their nests with spider silk to a small twig or branch that slants downward and covers the outside with greenish-gray lichens. They may lay eggs in a second nest while still feeding the young in the first.

Rufous hummingbirds, a western species, are very pugnacious around the nest, often driving away much larger birds.

  1. Judy Reagan says

    The statement below the nest photo at the top is a bit misleading. Hummer eggs are not as big as a jelly bean. They are even smaller than a Jelly Belly (jelly bean), which is much smaller than a regular sized one. The article says the eggs are the size of a Navy Bean. This is much more accurate in comparison.

  2. Dinah Lamela says

    Few years ago , we had hummingbird built it’s nest in one of my taller succulent plant . It was a joy having them around . I have some photos I took myself , and sad when they finally left their nest . To this day , their nest is still in tact …

  3. Eric Waleryszak says

    I watched an interesting show on TV about a fellow who studies Hummingbirds in Costa Rica. He found that hummingbirds will often nest In proximity to hawks nest as this affords them protection. Hummers are too small to interest the hawks as food and they gain some protection from nesting in the vicinity as the hawks will deter many predators from the nesting area.

  4. Carol says

    Do chipmonks sometimes eat hummignbird eggs ? We have more chipmonks and less,gummingbirds this year.

  5. Don Palstra says

    If live in the southwest USA, best way to see many hummingbirds is to have a medium to large fountain. They often bypass the feeders for frequent water trips during the day.

  6. Diana says

    I have has a nest on my front porch for years. This year I am concerned they won’t be able to use it. Clearance to the roof is only about an inch. Each year they build it up. It is about 7 inches tall now.

    • Lori Hvizda Ward says

      Last summer a hummingbird, broad-tailed, I think, built her nest in the chain of our porch swing & successfully hatched 2 babies. She’s back again and we’ve got two more hatchlings.

  7. patty cordero says

    We have a nest… when momma was taking off, out of the nest, she was knocking the newly hatched babies out of the nest. Put them back several times (not touching them)…. sad ending.

  8. Viki says

    I’m in zone 5 (west of Chicago). When do I hang up my feeder for the hummers? I miss the window every year. Help! Thanks!

    • Birds & Blooms Editors says

      Hi Viki, earlier is always better. You probably won’t start seeing hummingbirds in your area until around Mother’s Day, but start putting them up in mid-April just to be safe.

  9. Sherre says

    Hummers as well as other birds use my dog’s fur when building their nests. I have always had long haired dogs, and after combing them, I save the wads of fur that I get out of the comb and attach them with a clothes pin to the wire fences in our yard. In a few days the fur disappears and I put out more. It’s fun to watch all the birds come and take the fur for their nests.

    • Brian (San Jose, CA) says

      Thanks Sherre, great idea to use clothespins…i’m going to try that. I’ve been stuffing dog fur into a wire cage; i’ll try clothespins next time.

  10. al says

    I am just curious, we have a humming bird building a nest on top of one of my wind chimes. According what I’ve been reading they only build them in trees or shrubs. Is this common, Also how long after she finish building her nest does she lay her eggs .
    Thanks for your advice in advance,

    • kate says

      We live just south of Seattle, Pacific NW area, and I’ve been noticing a hummer flying around my covered front porch where I have a hanging candle holder. She is building a nest there now, in the very bottom tier, which is only about 5 1/2 feet off the ground. Is that tall enough? I am so excited to have a nest basically right out my front window but very nervous because I have a cat who has been known to murder little rodents, dragonflies, and yes, sadly, a couple of hummers through the years. He also took down a pigeon once. Should I continue to let her build her nest and see what happens? Right now the nest is just in the beginning construction. There is a base, and the walls are starting to build up. We believe her to be a Rufous, kind of a golden green/brown color.

    • jane says

      We have a hummer that has built a nest on a half clam shell on the wind chime in the corner of our deck about April 20. A LARGE egg was laid and then “TWINS”. We have been taking photos all along and watching. Chicks are beginning to flutter their wings. Moma is less often at the nest; guess 3’s a crowd. Fun.

      • jane says

        One of the twins left the nest Tuesday and hit the deck fence, knocking itself out. Thought it was dead, but it finally revived and flew to a near tree branch. The 2nd twin is still in nest, thinking, “This is great, have the nest to myself, food catered, why should I leave !” Interesting. We await the flight of twin #2.

  11. Nancy says

    I live in the high desert in California and my two feeders are in place al year round. The hummies come the entire year. I love them!

  12. Tasha says

    In January of this year, we found a hummingbird nest with one egg on a tree right outside my bedroom window. A few days later we saw a second egg. I set up a camera on a tripod in my bedroom and watched this little family for two months. What an amazing experience! Then my mom became ill and ended up in the hospital. The next day I saw my hummer babies spreading their wings getting ready to leave the nest. That same day, I found a second hummingbird nest in a courtyard at the hospital. By the time I got home that day, the babies were gone. Truly amazing to see one nest….but to find a second one is a miracle. I’ve heard when you see a hummingbird, it is the spirit of a lost loved one visiting. So I have to believe seeing these two nests is a sign of something major in my life.

  13. Robyn Scurry says

    My husband found a hummingbird nest on the ground just after a bad storm we had the other day.. I google it and it’s for sure a hummingbird nest. We didn’t find any eggs or birds near by ..If I place it back up in a tree do you think a hummingbird will come to it?

  14. Ally says

    I am having to remove a lot of bushes and small trees around my house. I am concerned that the humming birds may have nested in them although they should be fledged by the time I remove the trees. Do they always use the same nest year after year?

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