What’s Happening This Week During the Nesting Season: May 27

By Dan van den Broek, Educator & Naturalist-in-Residence

As we spend more time at home and in our gardens, neighborhoods, local parks, and green spaces, we want to highlight seasonal bird activity you can expect to see during the breeding season. Join us each week as we show which birds to look out for in your neighborhood and highlight other nature events throughout the year. 

It’s late May, time to take a deeper look into the lives of birds during the breeding season. Many of our resident birds started laying eggs in April, and by mid-May fledglings are out of the nest begging for their next meal. By now, some of our resident species might be onto their second brood or, if the first attempt failed, starting over with a new clutch.  Meanwhile, many migratory birds have arrived and are just starting to build nests. This week, we’ll explore the behavior of two hummingbirds common in the Portland area, one a long-distance migrant and one a local resident. 

Species to Watch for This Week

Anna’s Hummingbird

One of the few hummingbirds where the sparkling, jewel-like feathers on the throat (the gorget) of the male extends to the crown. Prior to the 1930s, the Anna’s Hummingbird was found only as far north as San Francisco. It is believed that extensive planting of winter flowering Eucalyptus aided their northward spread in California. In Oregon, the Anna’s Hummingbird is most numerous near urbanized areas, where forest fragmentation, gardens with exotic flowers, and the popularity of hummingbird feeders has certainly helped this species’ incredible range expansion. 

The first Anna’s Hummingbird recorded in Oregon was on the south coast in 1944. By the 1950s and 60s, their range extended throughout Western Oregon and north to Vancouver B.C., but it wasn’t until the 1990s that Anna’s Hummingbirds became a widespread and familiar backyard bird in the Portland area. The Anna’s Hummingbird builds a soft cup nest, bound with spiderwebs and exquisitely decorated with lichen, mostly from January-July. As with most hummingbird species, nest building and parental care is left up to the female. Two eggs are incubated for about 16 days, and the hatchlings fledge in about 20 days. The female continues to feed her young for another 10 days or so, after fledging.

Anna's Hummingbird, photo by Mick Thompson

Rufous Hummingbird

The bright orange Rufous Hummingbird is a common summer sight near riparian areas in most of the Pacific Northwest. Listen for the whirring of the wings, a sound that only the males make. They arrive in March and April from the mountains of Mexico and waste no time building nests in May and June. The female weaves the intricate, tiny cup-like nest alone, and performs all the chick-rearing by herself as well.

If the nest makes it through the winter, it may be re-used the following summer. The female incubates her two eggs for about 16 days, then feeds the nestlings on a diet of insects and flower nectar for another 15-20 days until they fledge. Male Rufous Hummingbirds leave the breeding areas for higher elevations by mid-June, and the females and young follow in July and August, moving to nectar-rich wildflower meadows in the mountains. 

Rufous Hummingbird, photo by lpfearn