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Do Hummingbirds Reuse Nests?

by on February 07, 2014

Anna's hummingbird nest. Photo: Jim Mullhaupt
Anna's hummingbird nest. Photo: Jim Mullhaupt

Heidi Becker from San Francisco sent in a question about an unfortunate tree pruning accident:

Gosh darn it, I’m doing some heavy pruning on a tree and discovered a humming bird nest too late. A branch fell from above and the branch with the humming bird nest sprung and the eggs flew out, and broke. So sad. Will the hummingbirds re-use the nest? I’ve completely ruined their habitat. No more cover, no more tiny twigs to perch on. Now I have a half pruned tree and don’t know if I am suppose to finish it. I’m bummed. I love those tiny guys.

If this occurred within the past two and a half months (December- February) the hummingbird is most likely an Anna’s hummingbird, the earliest to breed in California, said Juan-Carlos Solis, director of education at Wildcare.

Some birds will return to the same nest and add to it from season to season, or from one clutch of eggs to the next. But hummingbird nests, made from sticks and cobwebs, are very fragile and often do not last past a single breeding season. Anna’s hummingbirds in California do not reuse nests but are known for “recycling” their own nest material or pirating that of others to rebuild an entirely new nest.

“It’s good practice to put the nest back as close to its original location as possible, even by wedging the branch in with the newly pruned branches,” said Bob Power, the executive director of Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society. “This may provide a valuable resource for the next hummingbird starting a nest in the area.”

Because it is early in the breeding season, the hummingbird may attempt a second nest possibly in the same garden, close to a good source of nectar and insects. But it’s unlikely the hummingbird will nest in exactly the same spot as before.

“If the nest was that severely disturbed, most likely the bird will try to re-nest somewhere else,” said Michael Lynes, executive director of Golden Gate Audubon Society.

Wildcare recommends trimming trees and shrubs between mid-October and the middle of January if possible. And as a reminder, check any branches or cavities for nesting birds or resting wildlife before pruning.

Read more about hummingbird nests here

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Pungh0Li0 on February 7th, 2014 at 11:11 pm

Hummingbirds certainly do reuse nests. I have had an Allen’s nesting in my rosebush for years, laying eggs from October until June each year. Normally, she has 2 nests that she alternates between for each brood. She’ll repair a nest for reuse several times.
The nests are not fragile at all. They are very sturdy. Spiderwebs are one of the strongest materials in nature (and they don’t use twigs).

Pungh0Li0 on February 7th, 2014 at 11:23 pm

I should have mentioned, my hummingbird is in Southern California. But, same principle.

sue on April 29th, 2014 at 11:44 pm

here in north Tucson. I had a nice team of arborists and tree removal service help me saw off branch which had clinging to it, a strong hummingbird nest attached with 2 eggs. We carefully wove the mesquite branch into a yew shrub providing strength from the winds and shady from the sun… about 15 feet from where the tree stood. The mother flew over it a hundred times frantically looking for her nest, yet never found it. Talk about sad…for nearly 7 hours, she flew to the exact spot where the branch on the tree was, high above the ground but at the exact spot. She would fly around the house, each time expanding her search, yet despite flying over it and on the side of it, just couldn’t locate it.. I tied my dog’s colorful red and purple bandana onto a branch very close to the nest and then put a cotton ball over the eggs once the sun set, hoping the eggs wouldn’t get cold. my question is, how long can the eggs remain healthy without the warmth of the mother to incubate them?

Egg on My Face on February 29th, 2016 at 1:48 am

I had a hummer, probably an Anna..it’s late February, build her nest in my potted ficus tree that’s on my decking. I had accidently spooked this her the night before…heard her dash off. I forgot about the hummer and was unaware of the nest until the painters moved the potted ficus & I came face to face with the nest…luckily it was empty…no broken eggshells in sight. Because I felt it best the hummer NOT nest in that area, I did brake off the branch and removed the empty nest…for which I feel very sad…bad.The reason I did this is because a few years ago one of my other ficus trees was moved and tiny broken egg shells were littered upon my deck after builders moved it to do their work. It was so sad to see the broken hummingbird eggs on my deck…I just hope this little bird found another place…a safe place…to make her new nest & raise her little family …sigh.

Joan Bell on April 16th, 2016 at 10:27 am

A hummingbird actually built a nest in a h ook meant for a hanging basket last year.I left it there hoping theyv would come back this year, however the nest is starting to fall apart. will they rebuild? I enjoyed seeing little hummers when they hatched.Was really hoping they would return.

Tammy Merriam on July 11th, 2016 at 6:57 pm

We live in ST.George, Utah and every year for the last 5 years we have baby and mamma hummingbirds, they have a best a nest on my chimes on my patio, I go out there and just talk to them they don’t scare away the know no way would we ever hurt them, we keep then well fed too!!

Becky on January 18th, 2017 at 9:48 am

I have a Hummingbird write now in her nest from last year.

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