Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Calliope Hummingbirds- Daily observations on a mother and her chicks!

On Friday June 29th at eleven a.m. Amelia, Emmet, Kim, Mica and I walked down the trail to the river a short ways to a hummingbird nest that Amelia had found earlier in the day. Carefully assembled on a thin, drooping, leafy branch about six feet above the ground was the tiny nest. It was a small and cup shaped, about five inches in length. Hummingbird nests are made by the female from materials like cotton from cottonwood trees strewn together by spiderwebs which is really cool. On top of the nest the female arranges lichen, possibly for camouflage. When we came to the nest the mom hummingbird was sitting on it. As we took a step closer she flew away with the typical whirring noise that hummingbirds make. Now we were able to look inside the nest to find that there were two, tiny, white, elliptical shaped eggs! Hummingbirds lay about two eggs 1-3 days apart. Amelia had seen only one egg the day before so the second one must have been laid today.

Two days later on Sunday July 1st one of the chicks hatched! This time Amelia, Emmet and I took a ladder to the area and waited until the mom flew away so we could easily peek into the nest. Amelia was the first to see the baby hummingbird and was so excited. Sure enough, when Emmet and I looked we found a little purplish colored chick with a few crumpled feathers sticking out.

The next afternoon on Monday July 2nd, Kim and I took our cameras down to photograph the chick but the mom stayed on the nest the whole time so we tried not to disturb her and left. Around seven p.m. Amelia and I tried to see the chicks one more time and this time the mom wasn't on the nest! We set up our ladder to look into the nest and found two chicks. The babies had their eyes closed and still only a few feathers. I took a picture of them and the broken egg shells left over in the nest. Later that night we brought Steve and Emmet down to see the chicks too.

On Tuesday July 3rd, day three for the first hatchling and day two for the second, the mom was sitting on the nest when I arrived to see them. She flew away though and I was able to see the chicks. Today both of them were moving their bodies and heads while opening their short orange beaks too! Their eyes also appeared larger and rounder today. I left shortly after looking at them so the mom could come back as soon as possible.

Facts about Calliope Hummingbirds:

  • Scientific Name: Stellula calliope. The Calliope Hummingbird is distinct enough to have its own genera.
  • Habitat: Coniferous mountains, meadows, forested hillsides
  • Breeding Season: Mid-May to August, they are single-brooded.
  • Eggs: Usually 2 elliptical or sub elliptical, white, 12x8 mm eggs.
  • Incubation: Only the female incubates and later cares for her offspring. Incubation usually lasts 15-18 days. 
  • Nestling: Altricial
  • Nestling period: Brooded and fed regurgitated nectar for 11-12 days. Fed arthropods delivered by the female until they reach 21-23 days when they will become fledglings. 
  • Conservation: Little is known about many hummingbird populations because they are difficult to study. The only species thought to be in decline may be the Rufous Hummingbird due to some habitat loss. Habitat loss in Mexico and Central America is a potential threat to hummingbirds. 
  • Hummingbird Fun Fact: A hummingbirds heart rate is 1250 beats per minute while in flight!
Works Cited:
Sibley, David. The Sibley Guide to Birds. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2000. Print.

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