How to Make a Hummingbird Nest

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Hummingbirds, those tiny jeweled helicopters of the sky, hover around their feeders and the flowers they love. If they stop for a moment, their iridescent colors shimmer so that they still look like they are moving. Despite their seemingly constant motion, hummingbirds do stop sometimes, especially to nest. While commercial hummingbird nests are available, try making one instead.

Warnings

  • More of a caveat: Hummingbirds can be very choosy about their nests and nest locations. Don't be discouraged. Put the nest in a different location. Adjust the support structure. If a hummingbird moves in, don't destroy the nest at the end of the nesting season. Sometimes they return to the same nest. Instead, build another nest support structure and add to the community.

Attracting Hummingbirds

To invite hummingbirds to nest nearby, provide the essentials. Hummingbirds nest where they have food and water close by. Provide a feeder and plant a hummingbird-friendly garden with flowers that bloom through the nesting season. A bird bath provides water for many garden visitors, not just hummingbirds. If possible, add a mist system. Hummingbirds enjoy playing in sprinklers and misters.

Hummingbirds eat insects, too. A pollinator garden provides food for many flying insects, which hummingbirds eat and use to feed their young. Hang a basket of overripe fruit or banana peels near the hummingbird feeder to attract gnats and other small insects. Don't use pesticides, and let the spiders build their webs. Hummingbirds prefer to use spider webs to build their nests because the spider silk is very strong and stretches as the baby hummingbirds grow.

Making a Hummingbird Nest Box

A hummingbird house doesn't look much like nest box. Hummingbirds build their nests on flat surfaces and in the intersections of branches. Offer similar structures to attract nesting hummingbirds. Keep in mind that hummingbird nests range from about less than an inch up to about 1.5 inches.

  1. Design a Hummingbird Nest Space

  2. Hummingbirds test the stability of the branches by repeatedly landing on the branches. Look at pictures of nests or, if a natural (empty) nest is available, use its design as a model. In general, the nest is built with the nesting material wrapped around the supports and the hollow of the nest snuggled in between the supports. Hummingbird nests are small, so the supports don't need to be overly large, but they do need to be sturdy.

  3. Gather the Wood

  4. Use 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch diameter dowels to substitute for branches. For a base support, use a 2x2-inch or 1x4-inch block of wood, cut to a length to support the branches, between 6 and 8 inches. Trim the base later, if necessary.

  5. Construct the Nest Support

  6. Cut a dowel piece about 6 inches long. About 2 inches from what will be the top, mark the center of the base support. Using a drill bit that matches the dowel diameter, drill straight down about 1/4 inch to provide a starting point for an angled hole. Place the dowel at a 30-degree angle to the base board. Hold the drill parallel with the dowel. Using the shallow hole as a starting point, drill an angled hole toward the top of the base support. Be sure the hole is at least 1 inch long. The dowel should fit tightly, but add security with wood glue.

  7. Add Nest Cross-Sections

  8. Hummingbirds build nests on thick branches and flat surfaces, but more secure nest sites sit in the intersections of branches. Simulate these intersecting branches.

    Cut two more dowel segments, each about 6 inches long. Set the base support upright with the installed dowel pointing down. Set one of the unattached dowels at a 30-degree angle, crossing over the first dowel. Mark where the second dowel crosses the first dowel and connects with the base. As with the first dowel, drill a shallow hole to provide a starting point. Now, reposition the dowel to check the angle. Then, set the drill at the same angle and drill at least 1 inch into the base support. Repeat with the third dowel segment, being careful to create a triangular space above the intersecting dowels. Once both holes are drilled, insert the dowels, gluing in place for extra security.

  9. Complete the Nest Structure

  10. Check the intersection of the dowels. If the cross-over is close, the hummingbird nest structure will fill the gap. If the gap seems too large, weave twine through and around the gap to fill in the space and tie the dowels together more securely. Hummingbirds like an open space above the nest. Trim the dowels back, if necessary, to provide flying and landing space.

  11. Balance the Hummingbird Nest

  12. First, find the center point at the top of the base support. Screw in an eye hook. With the eye hook firmly in place, check the balance of the nest structure. While the base support doesn't have to be perfectly vertical, the nest structure needs to be relatively level. If necessary, trim the base support to help balance the nest space.

  13. Place the Hummingbird Nest

  14. Major selling points for hummingbird nests are location, location, location. Hummingbirds nest in shaded locations to prevent the sun from overheating the birds' eggs. A temperature above 98 degrees Fahrenheit will kill the developing hummingbird eggs. Hummingbirds nest in locations protected from the wind so that the chicks aren't blown out of the nest. Hummingbirds nest in sheltered locations above the ground to protect their eggs and chicks from ants, snakes and other predators.

    While the base support could be directly secured to the selected location, a hanging nest offers better protection against predators. Once a suitable location has been identified, securely install a Q-hanger hook. Thread the eye hook onto the Q hook and let the nest structure hang.

References

About the Author

Karen earned her Bachelor of Science in geology. She worked as a geologist for ten years before returning to school to earn her multiple subject teaching credential. Karen taught middle school science for over two decades, earning her Master of Arts in Science Education (emphasis in 5-12 geosciences) along the way. Karen now designs and teaches science and STEAM classes.

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