How do hummingbird chicks’ long beaks fit in the tiny eggs?

An adult hummingbird’s long beak is just right for getting nectar from long, tubular flowers. But hummingbird eggs are the smallest of any bird’s – they’re about the size of a lima bean. The beak can fit inside the egg – because, when the tiny chick hatches out, the beak is just a tiny bump on the chick’s head. At this point, the chick doesn’t have feathers yet, and its eyes are tightly shut.

The nest for baby hummingbirds is about the size of half a walnut shell. This nest encloses the baby birds, and helps keep them warm. But the chicks, and their beaks, grow very quickly – and the nest is designed to accommodate this rapid growth. The female hummingbird makes the nest out of grass and twigs, held together by spider webbing collected by the mother bird. The growing chicks stretch the soft nest. When they push past the edge of the nest – at about three weeks – they’re developed enough to regulate their own body temperatures. That’s when they begin flying out and foraging on their own.

If you see a hummingbird nest, check the same spot the following spring. Hummingbirds often return to the same nest year after year.

May 29, 2008

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