Wednesday, May 1, 2013

My Yard, Home To Rufous Hummingbirds

I am happy to announce, that after years of trying, I was finally successful in hosting a viable hummingbird nest in my yard.  At first, I thought it was an Anna's hummingbird, but then upon closer inspection and observation I found the female was a Rufous hummingbird, native to Southern California.
not zoomed in

The nest was in a low hanging branch, about 8 feet off the ground, and less than 15 feet from my hot tub.  I noticed it one evening while enjoying an adult beverage during a hot tub soak before dusk.  I couldn't figure out at first, why there was a female hummingbird nervously watching me soak, and then sheepishly ducking into the dense tree foliage and not re-emerging.   She had already built the nest, out of spider webs and bits of plant matter.  I was delighted to see her sitting in the nest when I got out of the hot tub.  She sat there each night, and intermittently through the day between feedings, for the 16 day incubation period.  When the chicks hatched, I was out of town, but upon my return, I was amazed to see two young hummingbird chicks As Big As Their Mother, sitting motionlessly in the nest, waiting for mom to return.
Mama Rufous hummingbird trying to be a decoy "Don't Look to the left, there's no nest there!"
Close observation through my 10X binoculars from inside my home, I could watch mom come and go and regurgitate nectar and small insects into her children's open mouths and throats.  The whole nest is no bigger than a small tea cup - one Cartman would perhaps use for a tea party with Polly Prissy Pants and Clyde Frog.  Smaller around than a baseball, mom would fill the nest when she sat on it.  After hatching, the 2 chicks dominated the nest as they grew so quickly.  Mom could barely perch on the side of edge of the nest to feed them before they finally fledged.

Dr Desert Flower and I were heading out of the house in late April, when I saw a very small and young Rufous female sitting on our driveway in the sun.   I was concerned that some predator would come and devour the resting hummingbird, so I grabbed a post-card sized piece of paper, and gently slid it under the little female, to pick her up and place her on a higher branch of a palm about 5 feet above the driveway.   About 6 inches above the driveway, she got enough energy to fly away on her own, off the paper, and perched on a deciduous tree about 20 feet in the air.  I was glad that she was sticking around the house where she had just fledged.

I hope she continues to visit the 4 feeders I have out, and next mating season she and her sister and mom can each build nests of their own in the foliage around my yard.


  1. That's great.

    Given how much cool outdoor wildlife photography you do, have you considered putting a better camera onto your christmas list?

  2. When I caught myself sticking my 3M pixel Sony camera into one side of my 10X binoculars, and looking through the other side of the binoculars to get pictures of cliff side raptor nests with chicks (and I even caught an adult raptor in flight) I said to myself "ok dummy, there's a better way to do this". The 400X zoom lenses that the nature conservancy dedicated photographers use are about $8000, which is way above my price range... but I should be able to get something that zooms and autofocuses "at range" better than what I have. And the image data transfer, having to use a SD card out of the sony and into a USB ported adaptor is kind of a pain as well. Maybe a iPhone5 will do the trick when I am forced to upgrade later this year if my role at work changes and I begin to become tethered?

    One note on the Rufous nest - the mother was VERY elusive and VERY skittish about being noticed - as a good mother bird should be. I took a good 50 images of her and the nest, and the ones above were the "best ones" of the lot, due to the obfuscated location and circumvented flight path required to "see" the nest. There was no real "direct line of sight" to it.

    Do you have any recommendations on a good camera?

  3. As a matter of fact, I do have a camera recommendation, but operating under the following assumptions:
    (1) you are not interested in a DSLR
    (2) you are not interested in interchangeable lenses
    (3) you want something relatively easy to carry but it doesn't have to be super-small
    (4) your primary or favorite use will be the kinds of photos on your blog -- wildlife and other outdoor shots

    If all those are true, I'd recommend a compact(ish) camera with a big zoom. What looks excellent to me is the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200, about $480. It's got a nice fast glass -- F2.8 even at max zoom, impressive! -- and a really good zoom (600mm!). If that's too far off budget, might want to consider the Nikon Coolpix P510 -- only $300 now and it's got a bit longer zoom but much slower glass so possibly frustrating in actual use.

    If those assumptions aren't true, or you have additional requirements, let me know. Researching these things is fun.

  4. These are true, and I will take your recommendation under consideration. Thank you sir!


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