Last year, I discovered a location in Fish Creek P.P. where I found 2 (and possibly all 3 species of hummingbirds that commonly occur in Calgary) nesting. In June, I had found a pair of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds and not long afterwards, Hank Vanderpol and I discovered what appeared to be a female Calliope hummingbird sitting on a nest. A couple weeks later, a Nature Calgary field trip I led to the area discovered a Rufous hummingbird nest not far away.
This year, I was finally able to get out and search for the hummingbirds back in July. It took me about an hour before I finally spotted a hummingbird moving about, but always returning close to me. That’s when I realized that this female Ruby-throated Hummingbird (for this is what it was), might have a nest nearby.
Sure enough, before very long, the female Ruby-throated Hummingbird had flown to her nest which had not been too far away from me the entire time. Incredibly small, I never would have spotted this nest had I not found the female. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds usually nest on a branch of a deciduous or coniferous tree but have been known to nest in more unexpected locations, close to people.
- At first the nest was tough to spot…
It was neat to watch the female as she sat on her nest, presumably incubating eggs. From time to time she would fly off but she was always alert and ready to defend her nest; a tiny structure built of thistle or dandelion down and held all together by spider silk. The nest, which is quite the complex little thing only takes 6-10 days to finish and is camouflaged with lichen and moss.
The most interesting part of watching this hummingbird though was the way she defended her nest from anything she perceived to be a threat, including a confused and startled Cedar Waxwing who twice made the mistake of landing too near the hummingbird’s nest. She swiftly drove the waxwing off despite the fact it probably wasn’t a threat; I suppose one can never be too cautious! One of the most interesting things I discovered was that the male doesn’t stick around very long; after courtship and mating he leaves the female on her own. This hummingbird seemed quite capable of taking care of her young on her own though!
- I visited the nest on several occasions in which time I saw the young get bigger and bigger. From what I could see, there were two young hummingbirds in the nest. One day, I went back and found no evidence of the hummingbirds, apart from their nest. Presumably, they had set off on their own, soon to head south to Central America for the winter.