Do Hummingbirds Reuse Nests?

February 7, 2014

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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