, Volume 51, Issue 2, pp 199–205 | Cite as

Hummingbird incubation: Female attentiveness and egg temperature

  • Carol Masters Vleck


Incubating hummingbirds adjust nest attentiveness patterns in different habitats to permit both regulation of egg temperatures for embryonic development and foraging of the adult for positive energy balance. Anna's (Calype anna) and Black-chinned (Archilochus alexandri) Hummingbirds nesting in California chaparral left the nest six to nine times during each daylight hour. Eggs usually cooled only 3–6°C during absences but sometimes cooled up to 20°C during long absences. One Anna's Hummingbird became torpid for 4.5 h at night following a rainy day; the eggs survived cooling to 11°C and hatched two days later. A Costa's Hummingbird (Calypte costae) nesting in the California desert also left the nest several times per hour in early morning and late afternoon, but shaded the eggs almost continuously during the middle of the day. A Purple-crowned Fairy (Heliothryx barroti) in the warm lowland tropics of Panama left her eggs unattended for a few relatively long periods each day rather than many short periods as do temperate zone species. This pattern is typical of other tropical hummingbirds as well probably because equable ambient temperatures mean thermoregulation of eggs is not as critical a problem as it is in other habitats. In the temperate zone, hummingbirds exhibit behavioral adaptations (timing of reproduction, segmented foraging pattern) and physiological adaptations (torpor and hypothermia) for successful incubation. Embryonic development is successful even when egg temperatures fluctuate widely.


Ambient Temperature Energy Balance Embryonic Development Temperate Zone Early Morning 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carol Masters Vleck
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA

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