Allen’s Hummingbirds: Reproduction / Nesting

The non-migratory subspecies Selasphorus sasin sedentarious starts breeding earlier than the northern nominate race. Their breeding season usually starts earlier in December because of the warmer climate in that area.

The nominate race of the Allen’s hummingbirds arrive in their breeding territory in northern California and south Oregon no later than February, which is the beginning of their breeding season.

Males are promiscuous and are known to mate with many females (Long, 1997); females themselves are not selective and will mate with whichever male comes first. At the onset of her fertile stage, the female is eager to be courted by the male (Long, 1997), and will visit male territories.

Initially, the male may be aggressive towards the female, but then will commence his aerial courtship display.

Hummingbird Resources

The male’s courtship display consists of a frantic back and forth flight arc of about 25 feet (10 m) of about 25 feet (10 m) – resembling a giant pendulum. At the peak of the arch, he may make a prolonged buzz sound. In between, they will pose and make “whistles, booms, and rattles” sounds with their feathers and voice. After the courtship display, he will then follow the female hummingbird closer to her feeding territory to begin copulation.

According to Long (1997), the total mating period takes only a day or less – including courtship, display and copulation (actual mating), which only takes about 3 to 5 seconds. Following the mating, the male will returns to his territory.

Nesting / Raising the Young

The female usually start building her nest before mating, but will finish it over after mating has occurred. She alone is responsible for constructing the nest and raising the chicks.

She builds the cup-shaped nest out of green moss, weed stems, pine needles, bark flakes, plant fibers and down, in a protected location in a shrub, bush or tree. She lines it with soft plant fibers and feather down, and strengthens the structure with spider webbing and lichens. The nest is typically found on a low, thin horizontal branch and measures about 4 cm (1.5 in.) high and 4-5 cm (1.5-2 in.) in diameter.

The average clutch consists of two oval-like shaped, white eggs (1 cm or 1/2 inch in diameter). She incubates the eggs alone for about 16 to 22 days until hatching. The young are born blind, immobile and without any down. The female alone feeds the chicks about twelve times a day by inserting her bill into the chick’s mouth and regurgitating food from her crop. She will continue to feed the young for a maximum of 65 days – so even after they have left the nest (Long, 1997). The mother will fearlessly protect her chicks. (Baicich 1997, Ehrlich 1988, Terres 1980, Stokes 1989)


Gordon Ramel

Gordon is an ecologist with two degrees from Exeter University. He's also a teacher, a poet and the owner of 1,152 books. Oh - and he wrote this website.

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