June 24, 2011

A Hummingbird Home

I was walking around the Burke’s exhibit galleries today (a great perk of working at the museum) and came across something that stopped me in my tracks: a teeny-tiny little bird’s nest.

This little hummingbird nest is quite a marvel of nature. Typically, female hummingbirds build the nest and raise their young on their own. There are usually two eggs laid in a hummingbird clutch—that’s a lot of family to fit in a nest that’s roughly the size of a chicken egg!

These creatures get even more interesting when you find out how these little nests are held together—spider webbing! Many species of hummingbirds collect spider webbing and use this to help “glue” the plant materials of the nest into a cohesive home. An added bonus to the spider webbing is that it holds lichen and moss to the outside of the nest—a perfect camouflage that blends nicely into trees and bushes where these nests are built.

Seeing this nest reminded me that it was time to clean out and restock my hummingbird feeder. If you give hummingbirds a backyard habitat with a feeder and hummingbird plants, you may end up with a nest like this! You can also see this exact nest in the “Explore Biodiversity” area in the Burke Museum’s Life and Times of Washington State exhibit.

Posted by: Andrea Barber, Communications