Naturespeak A naturalist's view of the world

September 8, 2008

Priceless Little Gem – Part Twa

Filed under: Uncategorized — wykes @ 7:50 pm

  I thought that you might like to know. That’s why I returned to that Ruby-throated Hummingbird nest once again – you know the one I showed you last month. It was a late brooding female in a Sycamore Tree and I was curious about her success.

  In case you don’t know what I’m talking about you: A) are completely typical of “my” reader base or B) you didn’t read the earlier “Priceless Little Gem” entries. If you are an “A”, please hold on for a moment while I advise the “B’s” that they might want to catch up on things and look at the earlier August entries. Anyway, I thought you both would like to know that the little hummers have hatched and they appear to be in good shape. The “gem” has produced a pair of “gems.”

  I find nearly everything about these micro creatures fascinating, but I have to admit that this particular nest has been a pain in the neck. It’s cryptic location and height requires the observer to stand in one particular place and gaze skyward for an extended period of time. I managed to watch the nest for about 45 minutes but found that my fascination factor was gradually taken over by my fractured neck factor.  I had to quit observing before I really wanted to and devote the rest of the day to the intent study of ground fauna.  I couldn’t review my pictures until the next day.

  Well, my photo record is less than spectacular, but I’ve selected a few.  Apart from the above shot, where you can see the better part of one nestling and the beak of the other, I took a few more (here with one visible and here with two beaks in view).  Based on apparent age of these birdlets, it seems that the female may have been sitting on young when we first encountered her.  It takes 8-12 days after hatching before baby hummers can maintain their own temperatures. These guys were without motherly attendance for about 20 minutes at a time, so it is apparent they were well into self-regulation.

  Another thing that marks them as “well along” is that they could poop on their own.  For those of us who have experienced the joy of parenting, this is a big step for any species. One of the few highlights of watching this hummingbird nest was the occasional “moon-rise” in which a tiny feathered butt rose up over the nest edge and forcibly shot a white stream of doo a foot or so from the edge.

   Earlier in their nestling careers, their mom had to physically grab a little white packet (called a fecal sac”) from the southern region of each chick and take it off to the dump. In one case –not this one -a female was observed placing these little packets in a line on a branch immediately above the nest as a fecal form of décor!  Others have been known to eat these poo packets (without salt or sweetener I might add).

  This Sycamore tree female returned to the nest to feed her little ones only twice during the time I was there. This would put her squarely in the average hummingbird range of about 3 feedings per hour. Her time at the nest side was brief and active.  She clung to the side and directed her beak down the throat of each young while pumping in a slurry of nectar and insect juice – pulling her head back at a sinuous angle to pull her bill out of the gaping infant mouths. She briefly paused once the feeding was done and appraised the general surroundings before buzzing off (see here).  

  If all goes well, and my calculations are correct, these infant hummingbirds will be ready to leave the nest in about a week and half. It takes all that time and more for the nestlings to attain their full complement of iridescent feathers. I have seen it written that hummingbirds possess more feathers per square inch than any other bird. Considering that they barely qualify for a square inch of skin to hold those feathers, I guess I’ll have to pass on the accuracy of that statement. You can’t believe everything you read – except here in “Naturespeak’ of course.

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Priceless Little Gem ? Part Twa

Filed under: Uncategorized — wykes @ 7:50 pm

? I thought that you might like to know. That?s why I returned to that Ruby-throated Hummingbird nest once again ? you know the one I showed you last month. It was a late brooding female in a Sycamore Tree and I was curious about her success.

? In case you don?t know what I?m talking about you: A) are completely typical of ?my? reader base or B) you didn?t read the earlier ?Priceless Little Gem? entries. If you are an ?A?, please hold on for a moment while I advise the ?B?s? that they might want to catch up on things and look at the earlier August entries. Anyway, I thought you both would like to know that the little hummers have hatched and they appear to be in good shape. The ?gem? has produced a pair of ?gems.?

? I find nearly everything about these micro creatures fascinating, but I have to admit that this particular nest has been a pain in the neck. It?s cryptic location and height requires the observer to stand in one particular place and gaze skyward for an extended period of time. I managed to watch the nest for about 45 minutes but found that my fascination factor was gradually taken over by my fractured neck factor. ?I had to quit observing before I really wanted to and devote the rest of the day to the intent study of ground fauna. ?I couldn?t review my pictures until the next day.

? Well, my photo record is less than spectacular, but I?ve selected a few.? Apart from the above shot, where you can see the better part of one nestling and the beak of the other, I took a few more (here with one visible?and here with two beaks in view).? Based on apparent age of these birdlets, it seems that the female may have been sitting on young when we first encountered her.? It takes 8-12 days after hatching before baby hummers can maintain their own temperatures. These guys were without motherly attendance for about 20 minutes at a time, so it is apparent they were well into self-regulation.

? Another thing that marks them as ?well along? is that they could poop on their own.? For those of us who have experienced the joy of parenting, this is a big step for any species. One of the few highlights of watching this hummingbird nest was the occasional ?moon-rise? in which a tiny feathered butt rose up over the nest edge and forcibly shot a white stream of doo a foot or so from the edge.

? ?Earlier in their nestling careers, their mom had to physically grab a little white packet (called a fecal sac?) from the southern region of each chick and take it off to the dump. In one case ?not this one -a female was observed placing these little packets in a line on a branch immediately above the nest as a fecal form of d?cor!? Others have been known to eat these poo packets (without salt or sweetener I might add).

? This Sycamore tree female returned to the nest to feed her little ones only twice during the time I was there. This would put her squarely in the average hummingbird range of about 3 feedings per hour. Her time at the nest side was brief and active.? She clung to the side and directed her beak down the throat of each young while pumping in a slurry of nectar and insect juice ? pulling her head back at a sinuous angle to pull her bill out of the gaping infant mouths. She briefly paused once the feeding was done and appraised the general surroundings before buzzing off (see here). ?

? If all goes well, and my calculations are correct, these infant hummingbirds will be ready to leave the nest in about a week and half. It takes all that time and more for the nestlings to attain their full complement of iridescent feathers. I have seen it written that hummingbirds possess more feathers per square inch than any other bird. Considering that they barely qualify for a square inch of skin to hold those feathers, I guess I?ll have to pass on the accuracy of that statement. You can?t believe everything you read ? except here in ?Naturespeak? of course.

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