Hummingbirds Are the Ultimate Bird Supermoms

Updated: May 11, 2023

A hummingbird mother raises her babies all by themselves! Discover how hard these amazing bird moms work to bring up their tiny families.

Everyone knows of male hummingbirds and their dazzling iridescent hues. But the female hummingbirds wow us in a more practical way: They are among the best moms in the bird world. Male hummingbirds take no part in raising the young, so these miniature hummingbird mothers do the big job all by themselves.

Meet the best bird dads and learn how they help out around the nest.

Building a Nest: The Perfect Cradle

Black Chinned Hummingbird On NestRichard Buquoi
Black-chinned hummingbird mother sitting on her nest

To shelter her cherished eggs, a female hummingbird builds an exquisite nest that is equally as precious as it is practical. She fashions a tiny cup from the finest plant materials, like the wispy down from dandelions or thistles, and places it on top of a branch, tying them together with sticky spiderwebs. She covers the outside of the nest with tiny flakes of lichen to camouflage her masterpiece. The build time is anywhere from a week to 10 days, and the resulting nest looks like a bump on a branch—almost impossible to spot.

Don’t miss these baby hummingbird facts and photos.

A Hummingbird Mother Provides Egg-cellent Care

Ruby Throated Hummingbird#1557 Brt0742Bill Leaman/The Image Finders
Ruby-throated hummingbird mother feeding nestlings

Once her nest is complete, the female lays two eggs (sometimes only one), each roughly the size of a bean. When incubation starts, she strikes a balance between keeping the eggs warm and keeping herself alive—hummingbirds burn a lot of energy, even when they’re sitting still, so the female leaves the nest frequently to find food for herself. During the day, she’ll usually leave five or six times per hour, spending a few minutes grabbing a meal before returning to settle on the eggs again. In all, she manages to keep the eggs covered for about three-quarters of daylight and all night long.

baby hummingbirdCourtesy Judy Evans
A hummingbird mother typically lays two eggs per brood

The weather affects the length of the incubation period. If it’s warm and food is easy to find, the female spends more time on the eggs and they may hatch in as little as 12 days. If it’s cold and wet or if the female has to take longer feeding trips, extending the time she’s away from her eggs, they may take up to 19 days to hatch. But the tenacious mother hummingbird keeps on incubating, no matter how long it takes.

Want to help female hummingbirds find food fast? Put up sugar water feeders and plant plenty of red flowers.

Mom Helps Baby Hummingbirds Grow Up

hummingbird motherCourtesy Anna He
Anna’s hummingbird mother caring for her growing babies

After the eggs hatch, the little hummingbird supermom switches to an even higher gear to keep her youngsters warm and fed. Scrawny and naked, the baby birds look like little space aliens at first. The female needs to spend nearly every minute caring for them when she’s not zipping away to get food. Leaving the nest only for brief foraging forays, the female speeds away to gather up nectar, pollen and tiny insects. She feeds these items to the young in a slurry form, jabbing her bill far down the throat of each nestling to transfer the nutritious liquid lunch. Never fear, she won’t impale her babies with that long bill.

247233943 1 Lisa Lovejoy Bnbhc20Courtesy Lisa Lovejoy
Hummingbird mothers work tirelessly to raise a family

The young soon start to sprout feathers. Within two weeks they may sit on the rim of the nest and start to stretch their wings. About three weeks after hatching, they make their perilous first flights, whirring away from the nest. After the young start flying, the female continues to monitor and feed them for another week. You may think she deserves a rest, but she’s probably hard at work building a different nest for the second brood while she’s still feeding young from the first. It’s just another reason why hummingbird mothers are so amazing!

Next, learn how to identify 15 types of hummingbirds in the United States.