UA ENR2 Hummingbirds Timelapse - A Family's Journey

What's the Story?

Planning Design and Construction (PDC), manages the design and construction of University of Arizona buildings and infrastructure. While the Environment & Natural Resources 2 Building (ENR2) was in the final stages of construction and occupancy, one of the last steps was wireless network installation. The wiring had been done previously, leaving a network cable exposed for a time on the 5th floor in the outdoor courtyard of the building. When a technician arrived later to install the wireless access point, he discovered that the exposed network wire had a nest built upon it. University Information Technology Services (UITS) decided to postpone the installation of the wireless access point in order to avoid disturbing the nest. They additionally had the insight to relocate a nearby security camera to observe the nest.

When PDC learned that this had occurred, we put up a feed of the webcam, built a webpage around this feed and provided information and updates. We named the babies Jack and Jill. We eventually setup motion activated recording so that we could capture interesting moments. We were able to provide video clips of the feedings, each bird taking flight, and very interestingly, the mother returning to the empty nest over the course of two days. Some people worried this meant she could not find the babies, but it is said that the mother shows the babies how to find food over the next few days. She probably knew where they were, but seeing her return was poignant. When it was all said and done, we knew people would want some closure, so we created the final montage video above that covered as much of the footage as we had available.

HummingBird Information

The scale is difficult to appreciate. These Black Chinned Hummingbirds are very small. The nest is the size of a golf ball. The mother hummingbird drinks nectar, eats bugs and then regurgitates a slurry substance the baby hummingbirds can digest. She feeds this mixture to the baby hummingbirds approximately every 20-30 minutes. The babies start stretching their wings by gripping the floor of the nest with their feet and flapping away. By two weeks, the babies are completely covered in pin feathers and are starting to grow real feathers. Their beaks grow much longer and start to darken. The mother hummingbird still feeds her fledging for two to three days after leaving the nest. During this time, she will show them all the good places to catch bugs and get nectar.

An Unexpected Gift

Watching these birds grow and simply live quietly has touched our all our hearts here at the University and we know how much it has touched many of you. For many, this was a very deep and personal experience, but interestingly, we did it together. We have received HUNDREDS OF EMAILS expressing how much it has meant to be able to share in this common experience and how uplifting it was to watch this family grow. These emails range from "Wow, this is so cool!" to stories of how the birds have brought together distant family members who "...don't normally talk much", to many examples of how the experience has made peoples' daily lives better in very meaningful ways. We are grateful to have been a part of this with you and know that we will all cherish this memory for many years to come. Long live Jack, Jill and their Momma!

Over 250,000 visitors have come to see the birds, and at times over 1,100 viewers were simultaneously viewing the live stream.

It has meant so much to have made a difference like this with people around the world. We could never have guessed the impact it would have or the outpouring of emotion and gratitude that it would lead to. Like everyone else, we were glued to this feed. Part of the allure was that we were so close and intimate with something we could never normally see. Through technology, we've been connected to something enchanting, beautiful, natural and compelling. We were practically brought into the nest. Another aspect that drew us in was the fleeting nature of what was observed. It was LIVE. We all knew these birds were going to grow fast, fledge and never return. Every moment spent with them was precious. Many people have written in about their newfound "empty nest" syndrome, and many let us know they cried watching the final video knowing that this time together was over.

Environment & Natural Resources 2 Building (ENR2)

This story takes place in the Environment & Natural Resources 2 Building (ENR2), a brand new state-of-the-art facility that is all about sustainability and environmental concerns. The design is inspired by the American Southwest's landscape, influencing its outward features to resemble the curvature of slot canyons.

So it is fitting that the first residents were native species and that we as stewards let them do their natural thing. Arizona Public Media did a story on the building New Building May Be Greenest on UA Campus outlining some of the sustainability features.

Photos around the nest area

The scale is difficult to appreciate. These birds are very small. The nest is the size of a golf ball.