for the Future
nest isn't much bigger than a coin, but it took the hummingbird
about 5 or 6 days to build it. First she put fluff (down) from plants
on the branch. She stamped it flat with her feet to make the bottom
stiff and secure. Then she laced the downy plant material, bud scales,
and lichens with spider silk using a figure-8 motion of her bill.
(She may have used a bit of sticky pine resin to hold nest materials
together.) She formed the lip of the nest by pressing the nest material
between her bill, chin, and chest as she rotated her body.
Q: Hummingbirds build their nests out of lichens, bud scales,
thistle and dandelion down, and spider silk. Why do you think each
material is perfect for hummer nests? (Answer
Lichens are good hummer nesting materials because they are tiny,
strong for their weight, easy for a tiny hummingbird to manipulate,
and waterproof. Because they provide good camouflage against branches,
lichens are used mostly on the outside of the nest.
Thistle and dandelion down are soft, waterproof, good insulation,
and easy for hummers to manipulate. Dandelion down is easy for
a hummer to find just about anywhere! This material is too white
to use on the outside of the nest, but it's perfect on the inside
where it is soft against the baby hummers' fragile bare skin.
Spider silk is a good hummer nesting material because it is easy
to find, very strong, sticky enough to hold lichens and down together,
waterproof, good camouflage, easy for a hummer to manipulate with
its tiny beak, and--best of all--it's the stretchiest material
available. The stretchiness allows the nest to grow with the babies.