While maintaining landscapes, active hummingbird nests are constantly at risk of becoming damaged when located in bushes, trees or climbing vines. When this predicament arises there is always hesitation on what to do and how to successfully relocate or remove a hummingbird nest.
Can you move a hummingbird nest?
Moving, relocating or removing any “active” hummingbird nest is against the law. If you have a situation involving an active hummingbird nest, always contact your local wildlife professional for assistance. Once the nesting cycle is complete and the nest has become inactive the law allows an unwanted hummingbird nest to be removed without a permit.
It is important to be mindful and knowledgeable of the laws that govern the handling of active nests. Interfering with an “active nest” is illegal. An active nest is one where a mother hummingbird is actively brooding (sitting on the nest) on unhatched eggs or caring for her young.
Call a trained professional to assist with relocating or removing an active nest only if the nest is in a location that is highly dangerous to the hummingbird or somehow a danger to your home or family.
Relocating or removing a nest that is no longer active or empty is not illegal. Hummingbirds will occasionally take material from an old nest when constructing a new nest. If possible, the ultimate option is to simply leave the hummingbird nest alone even though it may be abandoned. Hummingbirds are the ultimate recyclers.
Hummingbird Nesting Trees and Vines
When trimming or cutting down trees for maintenance make sure to scan the trees for any possible nests before your landscaper or gardener is scheduled to arrive.
Nests are built 10 to 90 feet off the ground in a hidden location shaded with leaves and soft foliage. Female hummingbirds prefer the fork of a tree branch with strong bendable branches to comfortably nestle and to securely build their nest.
Popular nesting trees for hummingbirds include:
- Ficus – Ficus benjamina
- European White Birch – Betula pendula
- Persian Silk or Mimosa – Albizia julibrissin
- California White Alder – Alnus rhombifolia
- Weeping Bottlebrush – Callistemon viminalis
- Coast Live Oak – Quercus agrifolia
If you happen to spot an active hummingbird nest, bring it to your landscaper’s attention. Make sure they trim without disturbing or disrupting while preserving the integrity and maintaining the hummingbird nesting cycle that is in progress.
Popular vines that attract hummingbirds to nest include:
- Red Trumpet Vine – Campsis radicans
- Japanese Honeysuckle – Lonicera japonica
- Orange Cape Honeysuckle – Tecoma capensis
- Morning Glory Vine – Ipomoea alba
- Cypress Vine – Ipomoea quamoclit
All of these vines are considered climbing vines and can be used on an arched arbor (a smaller frame in the garden), pergola (a larger outside extension of the house), a fenced deck post (displayed in full sun) lattice (on a fence or wall post) or even on a chain-link fence.
Even though these vines can often be invasive and require frequent routine pruning, they advance landscaping techniques and are a wonderful way to attract hummingbirds.
Identifying a Hummingbird Nest
Unlike other birds’ nests, a hummingbird nest has extremely small compactable nests which are their biggest identifier. Most hummingbird nests are approximately 1.5 inches in diameter. You can compare these nests to the size of a walnut, ping-pong ball, or a golf ball.
Hummingbird nests are built entirely by the females. The male’s role is obsolete once his job is completed. He is not involved in nesting or raising the chicks. This means that you will not see both parents in a hummingbird nest at any time. Only the female raises the chicks.
These masterfully designed nests appear as a tightly woven or dense cup that is decorated with moss, lichen, or other camouflaging materials. These cup-like nests will curve inward slightly at the top to protect eggs during harsh weather.
Some common materials used for hummingbird nests include:
- Spider Silk
- Cotton Fiber
- Bark or Leaf Bits
- Moss and Lichen
- Plant Down
- Fuzz, Fur, or Hair
In between the seasons of backyard maintenance, take the time and practice training your eyes at locating hummingbird nests. This skill will prepare and simplify your ability to quickly scan your area and notify your landscaper of any active nests.
Inconvenient Nesting Sites
If you find a hummingbird nest in an inconvenient place on your property, determine if the nest is in an unsafe location and check the nest for eggs. Female hummingbirds usually have two eggs inside their nests. The mother cares for the babies on their own and must leave the nest periodically to stretch and to search for food.
Keep an eye out for the mother hummingbird because she will never stay away from the nest for too long since the temperature of the eggs needs to be consistently warm to survive. Patiently monitor the nest and catch a glimpse of the mother returning or leaving the nest frequently to help verify there is activity.
If you visually locate eggs inside of the nest, the ideal situation is to leave them alone and not to touch them. Once the nest becomes inactive and no longer in use, it can legally be removed.
In an unwelcoming situation where an active nest must be moved because of it being in a dangerous location, contact your local trained professional rescue organization who will be certified to obtain necessary permits for nest removal or relocation.
If the hummingbird nest is not in any danger, leave the nest alone and be patient and know that within 6 weeks (from egg to fledgling) the nest will have provided a home for laying and raising two baby hummingbirds. Interfering with this cycle can lead to the abandonment of babies within the nest and ultimately lead to their death.
Discouraging and Encouraging Nest Building
It can be difficult to catch a hummingbird in the act of constructing a nest because they are extremely small in size and difficult to detect. Like many birds, hummingbirds tend to visit the same location multiple times when building a nest.
To discourage hummingbirds from building in the same location again you may:
- Add fake plastic predators
- Hang wind chimes
- Dangle flashy objects in the sun
Hummingbirds will refrain from building a nest where potential natural predators can pose a threat. Adding plastic owls, snakes, cats or praying mantis in your backyard will make the female hummingbird think twice about nesting.
Wind chimes make intense high pitched sounds that are displeasing to hummingbirds. Hanging wind chimes under the eave of a roof and near outside lighting will scare away any female who decides to settle down.
Dangling and tying shiny objects on a tree branch such as CDs, silverware, mirrors or pie plates made from aluminum that catch the sunlight will create an unpleasant atmosphere.
When attempting to encourage and lure hummingbirds into your backyard, know that most hummingbirds opt to build nests in trees, shrubs, and vines. Adding these plants to your landscape design will entice and provide safer hummingbird nesting areas.
Along with proper nesting plants, provide hummingbird feeders in abundance to entice the hummingbirds with a rich and convenient food source while they mate, construct, brood and teach the next generation to fly and be independent.
It should be clear that moving an active hummingbird nest is against the law and is never encouraged. If you are fortunate enough to have an active nest on your property but in an inconvenient location, your best option is to wait. Within two months of the nest appearing, hummingbird babies will be off on their own, and it will then be safe to remove the inactive nest.
For any other situations that may arise where nests are disturbed due to yard maintenance, contact your local professional animal rescue organization who is certified to obtain the necessary permits in order to remove or relocate an active hummingbird nest.
Happy Hummingbird Watching!