According to Native American lore, hummingbirds were believed to be spiritual helpers, and represented peace, love and harmony.
A hummingbird supposedly symbolizes joy, healing, good luck and messages from spirits.
But a hummingbird nest, carefully built in a hanging succulent plant, next to our front door, instead caused anxious moments for the entire Pascoe family.
At the beginning of May, a hummingbird mother built a nest, which is about the size of a tiny espresso cup and is as light as a feather.
We never saw her building the nest, but one day we looked out our front window and saw the bird’s little body on the nest. We later learned that it takes about five to seven days to build the intricate structure.
Her little beak was angled up and we tried to limit going out the door, not wanting to scare her.
One day when she flew off, we saw two tiny little eggs in the nest. They were no bigger than my thumb nail. We learned that both eggs have to survive so that the babies can keep each other warm when the mommy bird isn’t there.
We tried to alert everyone not to come to our front door. No Amazon, no friends; we even trained our dogs to go up the driveway to the side of the house.
Then it was a waiting period. Would the eggs hatch? Mother hummingbirds incubate their eggs anywhere from 11 up to 18 days and keep their eggs at a balmy 96 degrees during incubation.
The family continued to avoid the front door, trying to keep the mommy on her nest.
One day my husband looked out and the mother was gone. Oh, no, had we failed to provide the proper maternity ward? Was she coming back?
He opened the front door and peeked in the nest—the eggs were gone, replaced by two little grey things that seemed to have a heartbeat.
We learned that the babies weigh only 0.62 grams—less than a weight of a dime and less than an inch big.
When the babies hatch, they are featherless, have dark skin and their eyes are closed. Because the chicks do not have feathers, the mommy has to sit on the nest to keep them warm.
Then our anxiety started again—would the babies make it? Once again, our attempts to keep everyone away from the front door resulted in stressful days. “Who ordered from Amazon, again?” “Didn’t we agree no one was going to have anything delivered?” “Sorry, you can’t come to the front door, but I’ll meet you in the street.”
It seemed like years before we looked out and could see two little beaks poking above the nest.
Oh, no! We doubled down on trying to keep people from the front door as the birds grew. We read that it takes 18 to 28 days for the juveniles to “fledge” or leave the nest.
We watched from our front window as the mommy bird “regurgitated” bugs and nectar into the tiny waiting beaks. We started to feel some relief that the babies might make it.
About three weeks after the birds hatched, the first one sat on the edge of the nest, tried its wings and then flew away.
That left one little baby in the nest. He/she stayed a day or two more, sitting occasionally on the edge of the nest, and then it, too, flew off.
It stayed close a day or two, hanging around the succulents—but then “left home.” Ornithologists call a newly hatched bird a nestling, hatchling, or chick – so baby is the wrong word.
Our chicks, after two suspenseful months, had left home. We were truly “empty nesters.”
Hummingbird nesting season runs October through early June and the bird typically lays two eggs. She spends five to seven days constructing the nest, working several hours a day, and they generally are three to 60 feet above ground (cats are one of the worst threats to the nests).
One source said that hummingbirds have tongues that are grooved like the shape of a “W” and have tiny hairs on their tongues that help them lap up nectar. Supposedly, hummingbirds have no sense of smell, but can hear better than humans. The birds are attracted to bright colors, because the more desirable flowers are bright and have a higher sugar content.
A hummingbird generally lives about five years, but there are records of some living up to 10 years.
In retrospect, the symbolism of joy, healing and good luck was all wrapped into the miracle of nature, and it was delivered to our front door. Despite our fears, we were the lucky ones!