(Missed the previous days' entries? Here's the link. )
Day 9. "It's Nature's way," I am told. And it's statistically true that only 50% of hummingbird hatchlings grow iridescent wings and fledge. But numbers count for nothing, when you're trying to reconcile wishes with reality…reality being that one of the baby hummingbirds fell from the nest this morning. I don't know the how or why, but it was already dead when I found it.
Day 11. At this point, the hatchling is covered with pinfeathers, so Hope broods less often, even at night. To avoid attracting the attention of predators, she steers clear of the nest, save for the few seconds it takes to feed her hatchling. Feeding intervals vary, from less than ten minutes to more than an hour and a half.
Day 12. Look in the upper left corner: you can see one of the hatchling's tiny wings!
The nest is slanted, thanks to the heavy winds and rains, but it's not going anyway. That's because hummingbirds lash their nests to nearby branches with spider silk, which is at once flexible and super-strong. Hope brooded last night, and again today. I think she's trying to keep her hatchling warm while the nest dries.
Day 14. Hope allowed me a couple of pictures before she buzzed past my head, clicking and helicoptering her tiny wings.
As you can see from this second picture, the hatchling's pinfeather casings are breaking open now, and the beak is much darker. Before long, we'll see its iridescent feathers. Hope's baby must surely have a neck ache by now, what with staying in that position for lo, these many days. But I'm pretty sure it has something to do with balancing itself on a downward-tilted nest.
Day 15. Hope's hatchling has all its pinfeathers now, and is beginning to sprout real feathers. It lies motionless for much of the time, so as not to attract predators, but it raises its beak whenever it senses Hope is near.
Within the confines of its nest, the hatchling strengthens its flying muscles. It does this by gripping the floor with its feet and flapping its wings. Random fact: from the time they first hatch, baby hummingbirds do everything they can to drop their waste over the side of the nest (FYI, in case you hadn't already noticed).
Day 16. Look! The hummingbird hatchling's got tiny tail feathers! This picture also shows the downward slant of the nest–quite the balancing act, no? Time to fledge: 7 days and counting…
Missed the first set of pictures? Go back to Hope's Hatchlings, Part One
Want to see more? Hope's Hatchling's, Part Three (and a naming contest)