Why Do Baby Hummingbirds Die? – Saving Tiny Wings

When you think of baby hummingbirds, it can be hard not to imagine these tiny, delicate creatures in all their glory—flitting from flower to flower, hovering in mid-air, and making the sweetest sounds.

Unfortunately, most young hummingbirds don’t survive beyond their first year, and the cause of their mortality is still a mystery to scientists and bird enthusiasts.

The mortality rate for baby hummingbirds is surprisingly high, with most of them not making it to their first year. Various factors can contribute to the death of a baby hummingbird, including predation, lack of food, and diseases.

Let’s delve into the various factors that contribute to the death of baby hummingbirds.

Natural Causes for High Mortality Rates in Baby Hummingbirds

The natural environment presents many risks to fledgling hummingbirds, with high mortality rates for young hummingbirds. Possible contributing factors to this phenomenon include.

Weather Conditions

One of the critical natural causes for high mortality rates in baby hummingbirds is the weather conditions they experience during hatching and in the early stages of their lives.

Unfavorable weather conditions such as strong winds, heavy rain, extreme cold, and extreme heat can negatively affect the baby hummingbirds’ chances of survival.

Starvation

High mortality rates in baby hummingbirds are often due to natural causes such as starvation. This can happen when the chicks have yet to develop the necessary skills to forage for food or when the mother needs more time to provide food for her young.

Starvation can also occur when the chicks are born during times of food shortage or during extended periods of cold weather, which can limit their access to food sources.

Studies have also shown that when nesting sites are disturbed, relocation stress can make it difficult for the mother to find enough food to feed her chicks adequately.

Predation

It is one of the primary natural causes of high mortality rates in baby hummingbirds. Predation of baby hummingbirds often happens while in the nest and is usually due to larger avian species or small mammals.

As baby hummingbirds must remain in the nest for a relatively long period, they are particularly vulnerable to predation.

Human-related Causes for High Mortality Rates in Baby Hummingbirds

People have the potential to impact the mortality rate of baby hummingbirds significantly. Various causes of death can be attributed to human activity, such as the destruction of habitat, predation from domestic animals, and interference with food sources.

Habitat Destruction

This can be caused by land conversion for agricultural use or urban development, logging, and other activities that reduce the natural habitat of hummingbirds. This type of degradation not only causes displacement and fragmentation of the hummingbird’s natural habitat.

But also reduces the availability of food and nesting sites for the birds, leading to a decrease in the hummingbird population.

Pesticides And Chemicals

Hummingbirds are especially vulnerable to human-related causes of high mortality rates due to their small size and limited range. One major factor affecting the mortality rate of baby hummingbirds is the use of pesticides and other chemicals.

Pesticides are used in agricultural and residential settings to protect crops and plants from pests, but they can be toxic to hummingbirds. Hummingbirds can ingest pesticides through direct contact with the chemicals or through consuming insects exposed to the pesticides.

Window Collisions

Baby hummingbirds face various environmental dangers, one of the most severe being window collisions. This human-related issue caused by our buildings and structures is responsible for high mortality rates among these tiny creatures.

When the light from windows reflects off a hummingbird’s feathers, they become disoriented and fly into the window to reach the perceived light source. The impact of the window can cause fatal injuries such as broken wings, head trauma, and internal bleeding.

Prevention Measures to Improve Baby Hummingbird Survival

The increasing trend of baby hummingbird mortality has become a serious issue across the United States. Despite the efforts of wildlife conservationists, the population of baby hummingbirds is still declining. Therefore, it is essential to take preventative measures to ensure their survival.

Protecting Habitats

One of the most effective prevention measures is to ensure that the hummingbird’s natural habitats are preserved and protected. This includes creating and maintaining natural spaces where hummingbirds can thrive, such as gardens and yards with native plants, wildflower meadows, and wooded areas.

Providing a Safe Environment

Another critical step to ensure their safety is creating an environment conducive to their well-being. This can include providing adequate shelter, food, and water sources within the habitat.

Additionally, guardians of baby hummingbirds must take preventative measures to protect against predators and other physical threats, such as ensuring the habitat is secure from invasive species, predators, and other potential hazards.

Avoiding Pesticides

One of the essential preventative measures that can be undertaken to improve the survival rate of baby hummingbirds is avoiding the use of pesticides. Pesticides are a type of chemical used to kill or control the population of pests, but their use can be hazardous to baby hummingbirds.

Pesticides can cause respiratory problems and other health complications when ingested and can also be fatal if the baby hummingbirds are exposed to a large amount.

Man Discovers Injured Hummingbird On The Side Of The Road

Conclusion

One of the birders’ most common questions is, “Why do baby hummingbirds die?” The answer, unfortunately, is not a simple one. Many factors can contribute to the death of a hummingbird chick.

Several things can cause baby hummingbirds to die. One of the most common is simply starvation. Baby hummingbirds need to eat constantly to survive; if they don’t get enough food, they will quickly starve to death.

Another common cause of death is predation. Hummingbird chicks are tiny and vulnerable, often preyed upon by other animals such as snakes, rats, and even birds. It’s often hard to determine precisely why a particular chick died, but understanding the various risks can help you take steps to protect them.

Resources:

  • https://askabiologist.asu.edu/hummingbird-reproduction
  • https://scholar.lib.vt.edu/VA-news/VA-Pilot/issues/1996/vp960107/01050225.htm
  • https://catalog.extension.oregonstate.edu/sites/catalog/files/project/pdf/ec1570.pdf

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