The courtship ritual of hummingbirds is truly fascinating and it would be a delight to witness. This brings us to the question of how hummingbirds mate.
Like a lot of bird species, it’s the female bird who chooses the male she wants to mate with. In most areas, mating begins in late winter to early spring. It’s usually signaled by the arrival of the migrating birds or by the flush of new growth as plants wake up from their winter slumber.
Let’s look more closely at the facets of hummingbird mating.
Attracting A Female
One of the ways that a male hummer attracts a female to mate with is by displaying his colorful plumage the best way that he can. Many male hummingbirds have brightly colored feathers on the crown of their heads or on the front of their chests.
During mating season, a male bird might fluff up its head feathers and thrust out its chest to appear more endearing to any females nearby. It’s important to remember that hummingbirds do not mate for life and that each male bird will mate with many different females each season.
One of the most fascinating mating rituals of hummingbirds is the aerial display made by the male birds. When females are nearby, a male hummingbird will put on the most astonishing aerial displays featuring multiple zigzags and loops.
Another common maneuver is the courtship dive. In this case, the male will fly straight up into the air as far as 150 feet from the ground. Then, the bird will plummet straight down at high speed and pull up just before hitting the ground or the branch that the female is perching on, sometimes just inches from her head.
Even more interesting is the fact that a male hummingbird will orient this courtship dive to catch the rays of the sun onto its colorful plumage.
And of course, male hummingbirds will also beat their wings at an alarming rate to try and create the loudest humming sound that they possibly can.
How The Female Bird Chooses Her Mate
During mating season, quite often a female hummer will lure a male bird to the site where she has started to construct her nest. When this happens, the male bird will go into a full-on courtship display. This includes plenty of vocal chirps and whistles too.
If the female bird decides she wants to mate with the male, she just points her bill at him. However, if she decides that she’s not interested, she’ll just fly away and the male has to find another female to entice.
How The Actual Mating Works
After all of this effort from the male bird, the actually mating only last around three to five seconds. Male hummingbirds do not have an external penis. Therefore, to mate, a male bird presses his posterior opening (cloaca) against the female’s.
In this way, the male sperm is passed along to the female so that it can fertilize her eggs. After this mating is complete, the male bird will fly off to find another female to mate with. A male hummingbird will often mate with several female birds during the mating season.
What Happens After The Mating?
Once the mating is complete and the female’s eggs are fertilized, she will continue to build her nest. Once this is complete, she will lay two eggs that are roughly the size of a pea.
Sometimes, the female may only lay one egg but never more than two. This is because the female bird doesn’t have the capacity to look after more than two chicks at a time.
You see, the male bird takes no part in raising the young. This is entirely done by the female. And, it’s not because the male doesn’t want to. It’s primarily because the female won’t let him.
It’s not uncommon for a female hummingbird to chase away any males that come anywhere near her nest or her baby birds.
Hummingbird eggs usually take two to three weeks to hatch. The female will then spend most of her time collecting insects to feed to the baby birds. The babies will stay in the nest for around 18 to 22 days while they gain their feathers.
After this time, the hatchlings will leave the nest and start to forage for their own food. However, the mother bird will stay nearby and will continue to feed the babies for another 25 days or so.
Do Hummingbirds Mate In Mid-Air?
With all the aerial acrobatics that hummingbirds display in the air, you would be excused for believing that hummingbirds also mate in mid-air.
This is not the case, however. Sometimes, if a female is particularly enjoying the aerial displays of a male bird, she’ll start flying around with him. Although this might look like they’re mating, this is not the case.
The actual mating happens on a tree branch where the female will perch and wait for the male to come up behind her. Even though hummingbirds don’t have very strong legs and can’t walk or hop, they’re very adept at perching.
Frequently Asked Questions:
How do you know when hummingbirds are mating?
It’s not hard to realize when hummingbirds are mating because of the amazing displays of speed and daring in the flight maneuvers by the male of the species.
Does a hummingbird have a mating call?
Most people will know that hummingbirds are generally not very vocal. However, during mating, you might hear the males make different whistles and chirps to attract a female.
How long is a hummingbird pregnant?
Hummingbirds lay eggs and the general gestation period for these is around 16 to 18 days.
Now you know exactly how hummingbirds mate. It’s always the female of the species that chooses the male who she wants to mate with. To win her over, the male hummingbirds will put on the most amazing aerial display, each trying to outdo the other.
Once the female makes her choice, the mating only takes around three to five seconds, after which the male flies off to do it all over again.