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The Environmental Awareness Group of Antigua & Barbuda

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We have all seen the beautiful little hummingbirds in our gardens and on roadsides flitting and hovering from flower to flower in order to get the nectar that they need to sustain themselves.   But have you ever wondered about how and where such a tiny bird builds its nest and rears its young?

I was lucky and very excited to discover what turned out to be a tiny Crested Hummingbird nest one morning as I was trying to clear dead leaves from one of the potted plants on my porch.   I think I only realized what it was when I saw the two little eggs almost hidden inside.   I quickly moved away from the plant in case the mother bird was close and  might be scared away, but remaining at a safe distance, I was able to see her fly in and settle herself on the tiny cup-like structure.  

The diameter of the nest was about three centimetres, (slightly wider than a one dollar coin) and certainly not much deeper than that.   It seemed to be attached to the stem of the plant by thin plant fibres and spider webs, and was composed of downy plant material, more fibres, and covered over with a mixture of more soft plant material and thin flakes of lichen.

I was concerned about disturbing the bird and causing her to abandon the nest so I only observed from a distance until one morning, venturing to go a little closer I discovered that two baby birds had hatched.  They were hardly visible in the nest blending almost completely with the colour of the material lining the nest.   This time I decided that I would begin to carefully and quickly take a picture of the baby birds every day as long I was certain that they would not be disturbed.

I had first seen the nest with the eggs on June 4th and had taken my first picture on June 8th  The babies had already hatched by then, but were too tiny and camouflaged to be seen.   By June 12th  I was able to see the beginnings of feathers, and by the 17th, I could see that the  new feathers were showing a dull metallic green.  They were growing rapidly in size and I suddenly realized that, unlike other birds that could come into or near to the nest to feed their young, this mother had to hover close to the babies, as she does when feeding, to feed her young.  I was unfortunately not lucky to ever see this activity.  By June 18th the birds were tightly wedged together, filling the nest completely.  I figured it was a situation where neither could move without moving the other as well!  Their lovely metallic green feathers were shining beautifully by this date, eyes were fully open and alert, and their beaks well developed and ready for the probing of flowers which they would be continuously doing as soon as they left the nest.

Well, my observations were correct about the overcrowding problem!  On June 19th when I went to visit the youngsters once more, I discovered an empty nest!

I turned away with mixed feelings.  I was happy that two new hummingbirds were now added to the environment, but felt that I had said goodbye to my two little protégés, who had let me into some of the secrets of their survival.

Cleo Cooper

12th June - Feather stubs

17th June - Shiny new feathers

18th June - Alert and fully feathered

18th June - No more room

Humming Birds in our Gardens