Speaking of Nesting: Hummingbirds

About a month after I learned I was pregnant with the Bambino, I discovered what could only be taken as a good omen.  Just outside a window near our front door, and balancing on a small tropical palm frond off to the side of our porch and just a few feet from the ground, was a tiny nest, no bigger than the size of an apricot.  The nest, and the branch on which it was placed, were swaying precariously in the wind on this rainy day in February.  I went outside to peek inside and discovered broken egg shells and two tiny birds each about the size of a kidney bean, with large black unseeing eyes and slimy brown bodies.  They must have been born just a day or two before.  The nest was quickly becoming saturated as water from the branch above dripped onto the tiny creatures.  Since the momma bird was nowhere in sight, I grabbed some gardening shears and cut the branch above to stop the flow of dripping water from harming the babies. 

For the next month, observing the nest became a daily ritual.  Every morning before leaving for work I would peek out the window to see if the birds were doing well, and every evening after returning home I would go outside for a closer look to see if the birds were chirping and appeared fed.  After a couple of days I finally saw the momma, a hummingbird with an orange neck.  On one lucky occasion I happened upon the momma bird feeding her youngins tasty grub as the babies craned their necks to feed. 

The babies appeared to be doing well once the rainy windy days disappeared, though as they grew the small frond on which the momma bird placed her nest began to droop from the weight of the growing babies.  I carefully positioned the frond on top of another branch below to give it some stability, trying to interfere as little as possible with the nest but also ensuring that it didn’t break or cause the nest to slip off.  With my own baby quickly growing inside my belly, I felt my maternal instincts kicking in, as if it was my duty to help the momma hummingbird protect her babies from the elements.

They stayed in their nest for about a month, growing so big that the two of them barely fit inside their home.  Their slimy featherless bodies began to sprout dark brown feathers with orange tips, their beaks grew longer and thinner, and their chirping and feeding demands grew louder and more lively.  I knew they would be leaving the nest soon so I grabbed my camera for one last picture.  When the birds were smaller, they did not seem aware of my presence, but on this day, I underestimated how close my lens was to their little bodies and one of the birds startled and dropped from his nest to the ground a few feet below, not yet knowing how to use his wings.  Needless to say I freaked out, praying that the poor little guy didn’t die from the fall.  I searched the brush below the nest for 10 minutes until I located him in a flower bed, still breathing heavily with fright but alive.  At this point there was nothing to be done, and I felt guilty that I had harmed him, hoping that his mother would find him after I left.  This guilt haunted me all day long, until I returned home that evening to discover that not only had the fallen bird disappeared, but his brother (or sister) had also flown away and all that remained in the nest were a few tiny shell remnants and a whole lot of poop.  I felt an overwhelming sense of relief that the tiny birds were strong enough to fly away and did so that very day.

Until I happened upon the nest, I had never before seen a baby hummingbird.   I read that though hummingbirds are among the tiniest of birds, they can live up to 10 years and  I hope they return next year to pay me and little RB a visit.  After observing the mother return to her nest again and again to feed her babies and ensure the survival of her offspring, I began to wonder if mothers cared for their babies based on instinct alone or out of a sense of love.  While the question may never be answered  to a scientific certainty, the answer seemed obvious enough to me. hummingbird-7-of-7

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