Do Hummingbirds Mate For Life: Facts And Fiction

do hummingbirds mate for life
Hummers copulate for only four seconds, and they separate once the ritual is done. The female goes to her dedicated spot and lays eggs, while the male continues his flirt with other females. 

Hummingbirds are beautiful and appear even magical, likely giving an impression that they are a charming and romantic songbird. Their colorful feathers and interesting dances make them look surreal. However, in reality, these birds are far from lovey-dovey sweethearts. Here’s how the whole mating process happens in real life.

Life Cycle of a Hummingbird

Hummingbirds can live up-to 7 years on average, with the longest life span recorded at 8 years and 1 month for the banded rufous hummingbird. Most hummingbirds perish during their first year of life, but if they do survive, their life expectancy does increase dramatically.

A hummingbird’s life starts while it’s in the egg the size of a coffee bean or a tic tac. The average incubation period for hummingbird eggs is around 15 to 17 days, depending on the species of hummingbirds. Once hatched, the chicks need protein to grow, so their mom will spend some time hunting small insects and spiders for them.

After about 20 to 28 days, the baby hummingbirds will learn to fly. Most hummingbirds will live up to one year, but their life expectancy increases if they survive the first year. Some of the oldest hummers were six and eight years old.

hummingbirds performing mating ritual dance

Hummingbirds will reach sexual maturity around the first year of their lives. The female hummer will then visit the male hummingbirds’ territory. The male will then perform for her to convince her to mate.

Most female hummingbirds will lay eggs two to three times per year. Some species, like Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, will have only one brood, while Anna’s Hummingbird will have up to three. Migratory hummingbirds often return to the same spot to find a mate and create yearly nests.

Males won’t stay around to help with babies. Instead, they’ll move on, trying to seduce other females. Once young hummingbirds reach a year, they’ll continue repeating the cycle.

Are Hummingbirds Monogamous?

Many people think these bird species are romantic due to their sweet chirps and colorful gorgets, but the truth is, they have multiple partners throughout their lifetime. What’s more, hummingbirds will mate multiple times during one mating season.

How Many Times a Year Do Hummingbirds Mate?

Since these tiny birds reach sexual maturity at one year of age, they’re ready to mate immediately. They’ll mate two to four times during the season and produce one to six fledglings annually.

hummingbirds do not mate for life with their partners

What Do Hummingbirds Do With Their Old Mate?

Once the mating process is fulfilled, female hummingbirds will move on to look for a handy place to build their nest. Males will proceed to flirt with other females and try to mate with as many as possible. They won’t stay together and take care of the nestlings like some other types of birds.

Do Hummingbirds Stay Together as a Family?

Unfortunately, these birds don’t stay together to raise a family. Once the breeding is done, the female will do all the work:

  • nest building
  • incubating
  • caring for babies
  • looking for food sources, etc

Do Hummingbirds Get Divorced?

Since hummers aren’t romantic birds, you could say they quickly get divorced once the mating process is done. Still, this is in their nature, so there’s nothing you can or should do to prevent it.

Can Hummingbirds Mate With Any Other Type of Bird?

In some areas of the States, you’ll see only one kind of hummingbird, which will mate with its own species. However, if you live in an area with many different types of hummingbirds, you may see some hybrids near your hummingbird feeder.

This is because males can sometimes breed with females of another hummingbird kind, resulting in a mixed type. However, they won’t mate with other bird species.

do hummingbirds mate for life

The Mating Process

The hummingbird’s breeding season starts in early spring. Males will often return before the females to establish breeding grounds. The mating process occurs in two steps:

  • the courtship ritual
  • the actual mating

The Courtship Ritual

The courtship display is a set of animal behaviors in which an animal, usually a male, tries to seduce a mate. The courtship display among hummingbirds often involves:

  • courtship dive — the male would climb up to 60 ft and dive beaks-first in front of a female, then stop midair
  • body/tail stretching — to showcase its beauty and lure in the female
  • humming sound — created during the courtship dive and can sound like buzzing or whistling

If the female gets interested in the male, she will perch on a branch and spread out her tail to show she’s ready.

The Actual Mating

The act of mating lasts for only about four seconds. Once the female spreads her tail feathers, the male will approach her. Birds have a cloaca; he will mount himself on top of the female. Both their cloacas will open, and the male will release his sperm into hers.

After the Mating Ritual Is Over

Once the breeding is done, the two hummingbirds will separate. The male will move on, looking for another female, and the future mom will stay around the nest she already made for nesting season (which usually starts from March to July).

Females usually already have a designated spot for the hatchlings. The hummingbird nest is generally made of spider webs and lichens and secured so she can lay eggs.

Hummingbird Facts About Mating

Here are some interesting facts about the mating process and the babies:

  • Female hummingbirds are highly selective of their mating partner
  • The process may look like it’s happening midair, but hummingbirds can’t mate like that
  • Female hummingbirds will build nests for about a week
  • Mom usually needs to rest between laying two eggs, which extends the laying process
  • Young hummingbirds have low body weight and are as small as one inch
hummingbirds meet with other hummingbirds for mating

Favorite Mating Regions

Hummingbirds mate when they return from migration and when the climate conditions are good. There are no specific dates for breeding since every type of hummingbird will visit a different location at a different time to mate.

These birds are found across Central America and North America (Canada and Mexico, with some kinds visiting Brazil). For example, Costa’s hummingbird often visits Southern California and starts mating in January. Allen’s hummingbird’s common breeding grounds are along coastal Oregon and California but migrate to Mexico for winter.

Rufous hummingbird mates farter north compared to other kinds. They spend spring in California and summer in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. During fall, you’ll find them in the Rocky Mountains.

Final Word

Even though they look sweet and romantic, hummingbirds are far from it. The couple doesn’t stay together to raise the babies. Instead, the female hummingbird will go and deal with the nest and eggs on her own, while males proceed to mate with others.

However, future moms are more than capable of nesting and taking care of baby hummingbirds. Overall, hummers live from one to about five years of age and will make many babies during their lifetime.

Tara Summerville

Tara Summerville is a freelance writer that loves her backyard birdfeeders. She enjoys sitting on her deck with a cup of coffee, watching cardinals, blue jays, finches, and chickadees munch away at her backyard offerings. Her fascination with birds began as a child; spending afternoons at her grandma's house watching and identifying birds. She has since carried her love of songbirds into adulthood and ensures no bird in her yard goes hungry!

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