The Ruby-Throated Hummingbird Mating Habits
The hummingbirds are polygynous birds meaning the males will mate with several females that visit their territory. These birds are territorial and would do anything to defend their treasured areas. The males, in particular, will chase other males away from their territories. However, if a female hummingbird comes by to visit, the male will show off to the female to tell her that he is the best mate. If she approves of his display, she will mate with him otherwise, she visits another territory.
The female normally selects a nesting site first and builds her abode in preparation for egg-laying. Her preferred nesting site is near the edge of a main tree branch that slopes downward. The nest is situated below a leaf canopy and on top of an open area. After completing her nest, the female is ready to accept suitors.
During a brief courtship, the male does a back-and-forth display flight over the female. The noisy and rapid U-shaped flight is meant to show to the female his aerobatic skills and strength. Sometimes, you would see the pair doing an up-and-down flight together. When the female accepts the male, they copulate either on the ground, in mid-air or on a branch of a tree. After a few days, the pair disappears and then the female lays her eggs, normally two tiny eggs the size of beans. Female hummingbirds defend their territories against other females during a short period prior to laying eggs.
The mating process is quite complex involving several activities in which the female plays an active role. She makes loud calls signaling her readiness for mating and then performs aerial displays. While it’s the male who does aerial displays in other hummingbirds, it’s the female that has this characteristic among the ruby-throated species. There’s also a strong competition among the males that would like to get the attention of females.
Before copulation, the male sings at least 16 different sounds with varying functions. The male songs are complex sounds. After mating takes place, the female assumes all parental duties. The male does not help at all in looking after their offspring.
The female takes charge of incubating the eggs for about 10 to 14 days and feeding the hatchlings on her own. Newly hatched hummingbirds are naked and blind. At about three weeks old, they are ready to leave their nest. At age one year old, they can start breeding themselves. Ruby-throated hummingbirds are capable of producing up to three broods every year.
Hummingbirds do not mate for life. In fact, they don’t stay together as a pair. After mating, the male leaves the female and mates with another female and the cycle goes on.