Mary Jane Kinser’s granddaughter Madeline asks, “Grams, what’s going on, is she building a nest?”
Kinser was sitting on the back deck of her home in Pewee Valley with her grandchildren when they saw a ruby-throated hummingbird going to the wrought-iron ‘Welcome’ wind chime hanging under the edge of the covered deck. Tucked behind the bunny’s head on the metal rim, the mom wove an elaborate nest made of plant down from cattails and other soft materials, held together by silk from spider webs. To camouflage the nest, she used tree lichen with exacting precision.
“We have had hummingbird feeders out for years, but 2010 was the first time for this nesting,” says Kinser. “It is remarkable that the hummingbird has returned to the same spot, three years in a row, to hatch two sets of babies every year.”
Kinser says, “It was a very happy day each year as she returned. I would tell everyone ‘my child’ has returned.”
When hummingbird enthusiast Russ Thompson of Louisville got word of Kinser’s amazing hummingbird family, he began visiting as often as he could to document the progress through photos and video.
Thompson’s photos were taken over a period of six weeks, from May to mid-July, and were the hummingbird’s first clutch in 2012. “After the babies fledged and left the nest, it only took about 10 days before she came back to lay her eggs again in July,” says Kinser, explaining this was her sixth set of babies in the same refurbished nest.
Kinser says the up-close nest photo makes the eggs look huge, “but they are the size of those tiny Jelly Belly Easter jelly beans.”
Thompson says, “Mom will spend around 16 days incubating the eggs. My video shows this clutch from eggs to the day of fledging and includes clips of the nest, the babies, and mom feeding babies a regurgitated mixture of sugar water, nectar, and small insects that provides them the necessary food to enable them to grow from just-hatched to leaving the nest (basically full-grown) in just 21 days or so.” And once the babies fly from the nest, Thompson says the mom will continue to feed them for a few more days and teach them how to get their own food.
Kinser says, “I am really anxious and hopeful my ‘child’ will come back this May. Watching the beautiful happening of nature has been very rewarding to my family, especially for our grandchildren.”