Ever Wondered Why Hummingbirds Nest Near Hawks?

According to a study in the journal Science Advances, the clever bird builds its nest under or near a hawk? nest to protect its family from jays.

Birds build nests in all kinds of spots. For the hummingbird, only one spot will do and that? one that is next to or under a hawk nest. While this may sound like an odd place for the quick little birds everyone likes to feed, it? actually a strategic move to protect their eggs and babies ?sort of like when we choose the house near the best schools and in the safest neighborhood for our children.

According to The Guardian, jays like to feed on hummingbird eggs and babies ?something mother hummingbirds actively want and need to protect against. “When hawks are nesting nearby, jays forage higher above the ground to avoid being attacked from above by the hungry hawk parents,” according to the article writer, GrrlScientist. “This elevation in the jays?foraging height creates a cone-shaped jay-free safe area under the hawk nests where mother hummingbirds, their babies and nests, enjoy dramatically increased survival rates.?lt;/span>

Natural historian Harold Greeney, a postdoctoral research associate in the School of Natural Resources at the University of Arizona and founder of the Yanayacu Biological Station and Center for Creative Studies, along with his colleagues, conducted a study documenting nest placement and the Mexican jays’ foraging patterns, according to The Guardian.

When the nest was built someplace unprotected, this happened:

However, when the nest was placed near a hawk? nest, “the hawk nest, which can be 20 meters off the ground, serve[d] as the pinnacle of a cone-shaped “jay-free space?that Mexican jays rarely enter when the hawk nest is active,?The Guardian reports.

Greeney and his team monitored 342 hummingbird nests. Of those, 80 percent were close to hawk nests. The team discovered that the nests close to the hawk nests had a survival rate of 70 percent, while the hummingbird nests that were not near hawk nests had only an 8 percent survival rate.

But how do the hummingbirds choose where to nest?

“[W]e are not sure how the hummingbirds are choosing sites, mostly because they are too small to mark them individually so we don? know much about individual choices? Greeney said in an email to The Guardian. “[M]y feeling is they are faithful to successful sites and this leads to a ?uildup?of females around hawks where more nests are successful. [I]f they are using cues, it might be the presence of other hummingbirds, or maybe the vocalizations of the hawks.?lt;/span>

Greeney? study was published in the journal Science Advances. Additional studies have been planned.

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