How Do Hummingbirds Mate?

••• BrandyCorc

The name "hummingbird" comes from the slight hum noise created by their rapidly beating wings. They're so light that it would take around 150 hummingbirds to make up a single pound.

Hummingbird mating is a lot like other bird mating rituals with a few quirks based on the size and limitations of hummingbirds (they cannot walk or hop!). Because of this, the hummingbird nesting season and hummingbird mating details are a bit different than that of other birds.

Average Lifespan of Hummingbird and Other Facts

The average lifespan of hummingbirds is around 3 to 5 years. Hummingbirds begin mating and reproducing when they are one year old.

Females can raise up to three broods per hummingbird nesting season/year, which amounts to up to six eggs/offspring per year.

Hummingbird Mating Season

Hummingbird nesting season and mating season begins in early spring. In mid to late March, hummingbirds return to the U.S. and Canada from their southern winter migration to Mexico and Central America.

Males of most hummingbird species typically return north 1 to 2 weeks ahead of females to scout out and establish their mating territory. Mating grounds are chosen for the prevalence of food sources, most important among them nectar-yielding flowers.

Male Hummingbirds Attract a Mate

Once the female hummingbirds arrive, the males begin the process of attracting their mates. The main component of the ritual is energetic and showy flight. Besides looping and zigzag patterns, males will fly anywhere from 50 to 150 feet up into the air, then plummet straight down to the ground, pulling up just before impact.

Other displays male hummingbirds engage in to win a mate include singing, showing off their feathers (especially in the sunlight) and flapping their wings as fast as possible to create the loudest humming sound they can.

When choosing a male to mate with, female hummingbirds also take into consideration how much food is readily available in the prospect's secured territory. Plentiful food sources are essential, as hummingbirds must eat their own body weight in nectar daily.

Hummingbird Nests

By the time a female hummingbird has chosen her mate, she has already begun building her nest. Different hummingbird species choose different locations for their nests. Some species prefer their nests to remain close to the ground, while others build their nests in the highest branches of trees.

Hummingbird nests are tiny, about half the size of a golf ball. They are constructed from twigs and foliage, with spider webs used like mortar.

Hummingbird Reproduction

Hummingbird sex only lasts from 3 to 5 seconds. As male hummingbirds have no external penis, no actual penetration takes place. Instead, the male presses his cloaca (posterior opening) against the female's, and sperm is passed along to fertilize the female's eggs.

After Hummingbirds Mate

After mating, the female hummingbird finishes building her nest. Within a few days, she will lay two eggs, roughly the size of peas. Though in rare instances a female may only lay one egg, three is almost entirely unheard of. Female hummingbirds are only capable of caring for two chicks.

The male hummingbird does not remain with his mate or assist in caring for the eggs or raising the offspring. In fact, he often goes on to mate with a few other females. Hummingbird eggs take anywhere from 2 to 3 weeks to hatch.

The baby hummingbirds will stay in the nest between 18 and 22 days. After that, they will leave the nest to find their own food, but the mother bird may continue feeding them for up to 25 days.

References

About the Author

Eric Mohrman has been a freelance writer since 2007, focusing on travel, food and lifestyle stories. His creative writing is also widely published. He lives in Orlando, Florida.

Photo Credits

  • BrandyCorc

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