Seeing a hummingbird nest with eggs is exciting. But things don’t always go smoothly, and sometimes those tiny eggs fail to hatch. If you notice unhatched eggs, don’t interfere but know there are reasons it occurs and steps the parents may take.
Typical Hummingbird Egg Duration
To understand hatch failures, first know normal hummingbird egg development:
- Incubation period: 10-16 days
- Clutch size: usually 2 eggs
- Hatch rate: 1-2 chicks per nest typically
- Hatch order: 1-2 days apart, second chick often fails
- Parent attention: Female incubates, male guards
- Development: Eggs grow until hatchling pierces egg with beak
Given this short incubation span, something is amiss if eggs remain unhatched for weeks.
Why Hummingbird Eggs Don’t Hatch
There are a few common reasons hummingbird eggs may fail to hatch:
- Failed or incomplete fertilization
- Unhealthy parents unable to breed
- Disruption during egg formation
- Predators disturbing the nest
- Overheating or chilling of eggs
- Parents crushed egg accidentally
- Development issues or defects
- Disturbance causes parents to abandon nest
- Loss of nest from weather or predators
- Death of one or both parents
Without constant parental care, embryos cannot survive to hatching. But even with attentive parents, the eggs may fail.
Parent Actions if Eggs Don’t Hatch
If their eggs don’t hatch, parents take several possible actions:
- May sit for weeks waiting for hatch that will never come
- Instinct to nurture eggs even if futile
- If eggs clearly non-viable, will abandon the nest
- May break apart eggshells and remove remnants
- Allows focusing energy on new nest
Build a New Nest
- Often begin constructing a new nest nearby
- Will continue re-nesting efforts up to 6 tries
- May reuse materials from old nest
Hummingbirds exhibit impressive persistence trying again and again if hatching fails. Removing remains lets them move forward.
Dangers of Assisting Hatching Eggs
It can be tempting to help struggling hatchlings emerge. However, this is strongly discouraged:
- Removing eggs risks accidental damage or disruption
- Human scent deters parents from returning
- Unhatched eggs must remain at proper warmth and humidity
- Newborns require immediate complete parental care
- Hatching assists should only be attempted by trained rehab staff
Unless you are a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, the best option for unhatched eggs is leaving them undisturbed.
When to Remove Unhatched Eggs
Unhatched eggs can be carefully removed only when:
- Parents have fully abandoned the nest for 1 week+
- Eggs are cold with no parental incubation for days
- All eggs have broken open and dessicated
- Hatch date has long passed (3+ weeks)
- Evidence of dead parents and no new nest started
If failure is certain, disposable helps the parents fully move on. But have patience giving ample time first.
Helping Parents Re-Nest After Failure
You can assist parents trying again after hatch failure:
- Ensure feeders are freshly stocked to restore their strength.
- Water plants daily since parents spend less time foraging.
- Don’t disturb the original nest so they can reuse materials.
- Put up a second nectar feeder near the new nest.
- Limit noise and activity around the new nest area.
Giving extra support provides the best chance they will successfully hatch a new clutch.
Causes of Hatching Issues in Hummingbirds
Here are some common reasons hummingbird eggs may fail to hatch:
|Infertility||Age, inadequate mating, improper egg formation||Provide good feeding and nesting resources|
|Embryo Death||Predation, temperature extremes, accidents||Shelter nests from weather and monitor for issues|
|Nest Abandonment||Disturbance, severe storms, death of parents||Minimize disruption near nests|
Is it Normal for Some Eggs to Not Hatch?
Yes, it is perfectly normal for even healthy, viable hummingbird eggs to fail to hatch for a variety of reasons:
- The second egg laid often does not hatch due to it receiving less incubation attention.
- 20-40% of eggs in a nest can fail, allowing focus on stronger hatchlings.
- New or young parents commonly have lower initial hatch success.
- Eggs may be infertile or contain nonviable genetic anomalies.
-Some natural loss helps keep populations stable and adapted over time.
So unhatched eggs, while disappointing, are not necessarily a sign of underlying problems. It is part of natural reproductive strategies.
Seeing hummingbird hatchlings emerge after weeks of incubation is a wonder to behold. But failure is a natural outcome too, as issues like infertility, embryonic defects, predation, and abandonment can prevent successful hatching. While it’s tempting to intervene, parents remain the best chance for eggs until fully deserted. Supporting re-nesting attempts improves the odds and offers hope after disappointment. With extra care, parent hummingbirds often recover from losses to eventually raise new generations. Allowing natural processes to run their course ensures the most optimal outcome.
How long does it take hummingbird eggs to hatch?
Between 10-16 days is typical. They can survive a few days unhatched with attentive parents. But issues arise beyond 3 weeks.
What are signs of trouble if hummingbird eggs don’t hatch?
Abandonment by parents, cold eggs, broken shells, no new nest attempts, and elapsed time long exceeding normal duration.
What should I do if hummingbird eggs fail to hatch?
Avoid disturbing the nest and let the parents make the next moves. Provide good feeding and minimal disruption nearby to support re-nesting.
Is it common for some hummingbird eggs not to hatch?
Yes, 20-40% failure is normal. Some loss helps stabilize populations. But persistent issues could indicate environmental or health concerns.
How long should hummingbird eggs be incubated before helping?
Never attempt to hatch eggs yourself. If parents abandon, the only option after 3 weeks is careful removal once completely cold and dessicated.
Can hummingbird parents recover from hatch failure?
Yes, parents may rebuild a new nest and re-lay. Support their recovery by providing plentiful nectar and minimal disturbance in their territory.
What causes infertile hummingbird eggs?
Infertility can be caused by mating issues, poor health, age, inadequate nutrition, environmental toxins, or accidental damage during egg laying.
Should I let hummingbirds reuse a failed nest?
Yes, don’t remove failed nests. Parents will dismantle and reuse materials, which conserves energy for relaying. Just monitor for recurring issues.