I always enjoy a visit with Mabel Milner. She is a captivating conversationalist and she knows so many interesting things about nature, about plants and flowers, and about gardening. I always know I will learn about something when I visit, I just don’t know what. This time I learned about hummingbird nests.
One of the reasons for my latest visit was to deliver a questionnaire that would determine “hummingbird habitat certification” for her yard. We exchanged pleasantries for a few moments—Mabel always sits by her window that looks down and out over her beautiful yard—and she pointed to an oak tree.
“A few years ago, I looked out this window and noticed what looked like a giant dragonfly hovering around a branch of that oak tree. It was about twenty feet above the ground.” I leaned over and saw that she was pointing to a tree just to the right rear of where my truck was parked.
“After a few days, we realized that we were watching a male ruby-throated hummingbird. It was quite a treat. He was ‘casing the joint,’ looking for a site in which to build a new home. He finally decided that he liked this location and showed it to his partner. I watched the two of them looking around. She approved.
“It seems that the male hummingbird comes to look for a nesting site early in the season and to establish his territory. He needs good perches from which to survey his domain and he wants the availability of water as well as nectar-rich flowers. There’s the nest, over on that table, under the glass dome.” She pointed. I walked over and removed the glass dome from the work of art. I brought it to the coffee table to study it.
“The male watches as the female studies the site and then she builds the nest with little or no help from him. It only takes her a day or two before the nest is ready and well-disguised. A few days later she has laid two pea sized eggs and sits on them to keep them warm. About two to three weeks later I could see the baby hummingbirds with their beaks open, looking for food.”
“And guess what…” Mabel said with a grin, “The daddy is done, he says, ‘no child support from me—I’m out of here,’ and he flies off to other venues leaving the mother to raise the babies alone. They are voracious eaters and momma stays exhausted.
“The young stay in the territory after fledging and the momma begins to introduce them to surrounding flowers and to the feeder by the back porch. The family remains for the rest of the season.”
Mabel continued, “A year later we had the same scenario. It seems that the hummingbirds often feel that it is easier to spruce up the old place than to build a new one. We watched the birds as they used the home for three years before abandoning the nest.”
“We couldn’t resist,” she said, “after we figured out that the hummers were finished with the nest for good, we used ladders and pole pruners to carefully remove the nest from the tree and turned it into a bit of a shrine under glass. It has been taken to quite a number of ‘show-and-tells’ for the grandchildren.”
I loved seeing the preserved hummingbird nest and I truly enjoyed the story. Thank you very much, Mabel Milner of Rome, Georgia.
As usual, I would just love for you to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?