Working for the Weekend: Invite Hummingbirds to Nest!

Jill Staake

Photo courtesy BirdsandBlooms.com

Good news, hummingbird lovers! JourneyNorth.org’s migration maps indicate that Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds have now been spotted throughout the Southeast and as far north as Canada. If you don’t have your feeders out, now is the time! More than that, though, why not make this the year you invite these little charmers to build a nest in your own yard? Here’s how:

  • Temperatures Count: Hummingbirds can only nest where the eggs can remain at temperatures below 96 degrees.  Because of this, they’ll frequently choose shady areas. They often choose broad-leaved trees where the evaporative qualities of the leaves make the temperature up to 6 degrees cooler.

Takeaway Tip: Those in higher altitudes where temperatures remain cooler can expect to see more nesting hummingbirds. Those in Florida and the Deep South – I’m sorry to say that hummingbirds generally don’t nest in our area.

  • Hummers Need Shelter: Hummingbird eggs are so very small that they are easily blown around by the wind. For this reason, nests must be located where they’ll be protected from gusts.

Takeaway Tip: Plant broad-leaved trees like maples and oaks to provide the habitat hummingbirds need to nest.

  • Spiderwebs? Yes, Spiderwebs! The tiny hummingbird nests (often no more than an inch or two wide) are often built from a base of spiderwebs. Their sticky nature allows the birds to shape the bowl that they’ll cover with seeds, pieces of bark, and other materials to camouflage the nest among the branches.

Takeaway Tip: Leave the spiderwebs in your yard! Spiders are beneficial in a garden anyway, and once they’ve abandoned a web, you can leave it up during hummingbird nesting season to help the birds out.

  • Downy Soft: Hummingbirds line the insides of the their nests with soft materials like moss, leaves, and cotton. The small eggs are only half an inch in diameter and need all the protection they can get. It takes hummingbirds about a week to build a nest, and they will frequently steal from other hummingbirds nearby.

Takeaway Tip: Offer soft nesting materials like cotton and dryer lint to encourage hummingbirds to nest. An easy solution is the Hummer Helper Cage filled with nesting materials.

I’m sure it goes without saying that hummingbird parents will only build where they have a steady source of food, so be sure you’re offering a garden full of hummingbird nectar plants or hummingbird feeders that are cleaned and filled regularly. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t see nesters your first year – the nests are tiny and very hard to spot, but they may be there all the same. Click here to read one Birds and Blooms reader’s experience with these elusive nests if you need some encouragement.

Do you have nesting hummingbirds in your yard? Tell us about your experiences and offer tips to others in the comments section below!

Every Thursday, the Working for the Weekend segment highlights a project or job for Southeastern gardeners to tackle in the weekend ahead. Know of a project you’d like to see featured here, or a garden chore you’d like some help with? Make your suggestions in the comments section below.

  1. Monique says

    I’ve always read not to offer dryer lint because it doesn’t dry out fast enough for a nest after it gets wet. Has anyone else heard this??

  2. Donna says

    I used to have “Green Singing Finch as pets”…And I offered cotton balls to them for nesting. They LOVED it and used it…WELL, it was a nightmare because I ended up having to rescue my little birds from that same cotton…It wrapped around their legs to a point they were tied up in it…One by one I sat with each bird and tweezed them free…I will NEVER offer cotton to nesting birds… My Little finch were about the same size as hummingbirds…

  3. says

    We have white pines in our yard and I had read somewhere that Hbirds like to nest in them. We had almost 2 dozen Hbirds a couple of years ago; but last year we only had a few. This year we have at least 2, but I’m not sure how things will go.

  4. Patricia says

    I heard short lengths of cotton yarn is good to offer but that it must be made of natural materials such as cotton so that it can dry it and should be cut short so the little birdies do not get tangled but I’ve never see any of my feathered friends use any of the one I left out for them :-/

  5. Diana Ragon says

    I love hummingbirds but the problem I have are these very tiny bees get into the feeder. They actually look like baby honey bees. Any suggestions?

      • karen says

        I have no less than fifty humming birds that visit me every summer, they nest in the trees around my house. I love them, and every year the kids come back, so i get more every year. I have also had the problem with bees, I went out and spent 80.00 on feeders that are bee proof. The hummers didnt like them!! so I asked around and found out that the bees have to land to get sugar water, so i put olive oil on the feeders around the hole and it totaly worked. The bees hate the oil and cant land on the feeder. The hummers dont even notice the oil at all. I do bring feeders in every other day and change the water and reapply the oil. Hope this helps ;)

        • Ben says

          Avoid feeders with yellow coloration. Bees love yellow. especially wasps. This has helped me keep them away.

  6. Lorri La Riviere says

    Please, when you make the food for your feeder, do not add food coloring. It is not good for the hummers. Use a red feeder instead. I use a clear glass feeder, and the mixture for hummingbirds is easy: 2 cups sugar to 4 cups water. Boil it until sugar is dissolved and let cool. Distilled water is best, but I live in a non-fluoridated area, so my tap water is fine.

    • Robin says

      I always read it should be 1:4, that is 1/4 c sugar to 1 cup water, or 1 c sugar to 4 cups water.

  7. Karen says

    Hi All , I live in a community outside of Victoria B.C. thanks for the tip in olive oil to deter the wasps in late summer we get allot of them coming to the feeders and chasing the hummers away , we started putting feeders out about 18 years ago and get many verities the beautiful little humming birds every year , for the last three years some stay all year round I think they are the rufous , when the temperature drops to freezing outside for any length of time we bring the feeders indoors at night and put them back outside in the early morning or they freeze . we have 6 feeders out all around our home it’s wonderful because no matter what part of the house I am in I can see the hummers feeding all year round, and our grandkids just love to watch them come to the feeders and we have perches on all of the feeders so they stand and take there time feeding unless of coarse there is a bossy one near by that try’s to guard the feeders, we have many trees on our property so there are lots of shelter for them, we do have quite a verity of birds from hummers to ravens, owls, eagles, so lots of activity to watch plus the deer and squirrels.

  8. e hughes says

    ive not done anything to encourage them to nest but last season i found 3 nests. 1 of which (under my patio cover) was used twice in the same season. i do have 3 large hibiscus bushes and a few random flowering plants (white sage and fruitless plum trees) but aside from that- one nested in a pine tree another in a pink camellia tree and the other under my patio on a string of xmas lights

    http://i48.tinypic.com/5f5fgm.png

  9. Lila says

    In the winter when the temps start freezing I take a shop light with a light bulb and clamp it about a foot above the feeder on the chain. It keeps the food from freezing and I think they like the warmth it offers. They also love a fountain, summer and winter they will bathe and drink from it. I also put nesting material out, I purchase it from a bird shop so I know it won’t be a problem. I have heard dryer lint is ok if you don’t use dryer sheets. We have the Anna’s year around and the rufous migrate.
    Hillsboro, Oregon.

  10. christy says

    Have never seen Hummers nest in my yard tho I do see them every day at my feeders. I have spotted nests and they all appear in almost the exact same way. . .in Maple trees. On a branch hanging lower than canopy that’s approx 1 1/2″ thick and over hard pack dirt. Coincidence? Maybe. I’m no expert. But I have found three nests situated in this way. Maybe it another Ohio thing!

  11. says

    We have nests every year in our catsclaw vine under the patio covering. We have put up a remote camera to capture some great video.

  12. serenity says

    I have a returning humming bird every year now for three years. Last year I was lucky enough to catch on video, Close up and excellent footage, one of the babies leaving the nest for the first time.

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