We had a rare experience last weekend. All summer long we’ve been enjoying the activities of four hummingbirds who have been voracious eaters at our feeders and at our flowers. Sunday, my hubby spotted this tiny hummer feeding along the ground at a patch of volunteer petunias. The little guy seemed to be struggling. He would flit to a flower, feed, then just sort of drop. Then he’d try again, drop again. So, Tom, being the tender hearted soul that he is, gently scooped him up (the fact that he even let Tom near him was a tip off that all was not well) and placed him on a higher feeder. Tom was afraid the cats would get him. Once again, the little guy tried to fly and ended up back near the ground on a flower.
So, this time, Tom picked him up and brought him into the house to me – apparently I’d been newly anointed the ‘hummingbird whisperer”. Let me tell you, holding that teeny tiny little fluff of nothing in my hand was a darned near religious experience. He was so fragile and frail and my heart just burst with a determination to ‘fix’ him.
So, I went to a website to find out what I might be able to do for him. Among other things, I found out that it’s 100% illegal to harbor a hummingbird. But since we don’t have any wild life rehabilitation centers anywhere near us and I figured it would be a bigger crime to just let him die, I defied the hummer police and set about my mission.
First I warmed him up in my hands.
Then I set him on a chair in our screened porch and tried to get him to eat from a doll sized feeder. It wasn’t happening. He just sat there, cold and confused and, well, not well.
So, I warmed him up some more (it looks like I’m really holding him tight but the truth is he was so tiny he was lost in my loose fist). Then I decided to try to entice him to eat. I kept holding the feeder to his long, needle beak and dripping nectar on it. Finally, he got the picture and started eating like a starving little Oliver Twist. I was ecstatic!
Slugger and I (yes, I named him) carried on like that for the better part of the afternoon. Me feeding him, him eating. And hope grew. But I knew in my heart that he wasn’t ready to go back into the cold cruel world just yet.
So, I made a little habitat for him in the whirlpool tub. Yup. I gave him a couple of pots of African violets, a little hummer sized bird bath and Tom even went to great lengths to catch some flies – ‘cause hummers don’t live on nectar alone, ya know. I covered the tub with some window screens – 1) to keep him from getting out and hurting himself if he got a sudden burst of energy and 2) to keep the cats from deciding he was easy pickings.
Here he is, happy as a clam on his violet.
And here is a shot of his temporary habitat. I visited him every hour until sundown and fed him several more times. But when sundown came and the other hummers had left the feeders to settle down for the night, I left him alone too, shut off the lights, shut the door and left him to hopefully go into a hummer torpor.
What is a hummingbird torpor you might ask? Every night, they shut down approximately 95% of their body functions and go into a near hibernation state. They do this to save energy because their little bodies demand so much.
Sure enough, the next morning, when I went in to check on him, he was in torpor. At first I thought I’d lost him. He was lifeless, laying on his side on the blanket. But I picked him up, and he peeped and then just lay there. Ten minutes later, however, he yawned, shook himself all over and when i gave him the feeder, he ate like a little piggie. Yea! Little Slugger was looking perky and strong. I fed him one more time then took him outside and set him on a feeder. He looked a little disoriented for a while but finally he flew to the bird bath. I ran back in to the house to get the camera to snap one last shot of him but when I came back he was gone.
Success! It was sad to see him go but so gratifying to think we had played a part in giving the little guy new life.
Yesterday, we spotted him at the feeders with the other 3. He’s easy to spot because he’s so much smaller than the other three. He looked good and strong and when I went outside on the deck, he actually buzzed me, did a little hover right in front of my face (I like to think it was a ‘thank you’) and then he flew away. Oh, joy!
Today, I spotted him on the feeder by my office window. And I smiled.
So what about you? Are you hummingbird fans? Have you had any experiences with them? Or if not hummers, have you had any experiences when Nature got off course and you felt the need to intervene?