When Nature gets off course

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.

baby humming bird 025

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.

baby humming bird 028

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.

baby humming bird 034

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! 

baby humming bird 037

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. 

baby humming bird 047

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.

baby humming bird 048

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!

baby humming bird 014

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?

About cindygerard

Cindy Gerard is a New York Times best-selling author of action packed romantic suspense novels. Learn more about Cindy at http://www.cindygerard.com
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48 Responses to When Nature gets off course

  1. Helen Brenna says:

    Oh, Cindy, what a wonderful experience. I’m so impressed with how innovative you guys are! I’m so glad it turned out well. Most of my nature saving efforts have fallen flat, sorry to say, but I keep trying. And I LOVE hummingbirds!

    • Cindy Gerard says:

      Yea – I’m back on line!!! Finally
      Helen – I so hear you. I was always bringing home injured birds when I was a kid and I can’t remember too many of those attempt to help ending well. We had a lot of birds buried in our back yard. So, this was especially gratifying.

  2. Candace Schuler says:

    When we lived in Santa Rosa, CA, our backyard was hummingbird central. Apparently, Santa Rosa is on the hummers’ migration route to/from Mexico. During peak migration periods we’d often have upwards of twenty hummers doing aerial battle around the three feeders in our backyard. If the DH happened to be re-filling the feeders during prime feeding time (early morning and just before twilight) some of the more daring — or, maybe, just hungrier — hummers would buzz him like little dive bombers. We never could figure out whether they were trying to hurry him up or drive him away from their food source. As tiny and fragile as they are, hummers are highly territorial and aggressive. It’s probably a very good thing they’re not bigger!

    • Cindy Gerard says:

      Candace – you are so right. They are fierce and aggressive little warriors. We think of them as fighter jets was they swoop and bombard the feeders.
      Tom and I have decided that this little guy got butted too hard by his bigger buddies and that’s how he got hurt.
      So happy to see him buzzing the flowers and feeders again. Will be sad when they leave but know it must be soon so they can make their great migration south.

  3. LSUReader says:

    Awwww…That is such a great story. You showed such patience and understanding. Honestly, it makes me feel good just reading about you and Hubby. Thank you for sharing,.

    • Cindy Gerard says:

      LSUReader – We got great pleasure from this. What a special gift to hold that little soul in our hands. I mean really? How often in life (especially at our age) do you get to experience something this new and profound?

  4. michelehauf says:

    That must rank right up there with coolest experience ever. I see hummingbirds so rarely (I’m lucky to see one a summer), that I stop everything I’m doing when I do spy one and just watch it. So cute!

    • Cindy Gerard says:

      You’re right, Michele. It was a very cool experience – even though I didn’t sleep much Saturday night, worrying if Slugger would make it through the night. When I found him the next morning, all messed up and out of it, i was afraid we would still lose him. But, it turned out he was still in torpor and as soon as he work up, it was like he was born again.

      We have had hummers from time to time but never as many as this summer. I think it’s because Tom planted about 3 times as many flowers as he usually does. i read that hummers sometimes visit as many as 1000 flowers a day. Well, we had ’em. Lol. And you can bet that next year we’ll have as many or more + we’re researching what flowers Hummers love in particular and plan to add them to the mix.

  5. Leanne Banks says:

    Cindy has no internet! She asked me to tell you because she would love to be answering your posts about “hummers”, but she can’t. Service guy is on the way. I love this story!:) xo, Leanne

    • Cindy Gerard says:

      Thanks for posting, Leanne. Turns out my cleaning lady may have loosened my connection. Duh. In any event, I did some fiddling around and got myself on line again.
      Ya just never know LOL

  6. Kathleen O'Donnell says:

    The are fascinating little creatures. I loved to watch them feed… My sister in law has hummingbird feeders all over the place, at home and at the cottage…
    It is wonderful what you and your husband did to restore it’s strength…

    • Cindy Gerard says:

      We worried the entire time, Kathleen if we were doing the right thing. But as weak as he was, he was fodder for the cats and as much as I love my 2 kitties, if they had gotten to that little hummer and killed him, I was going to be very unhappy with them. :o)

  7. I love this story, too. We see a few of hummers every summer, We don’t have feeders, but I plant flowers they’re known to like, and I figure if I see a few, they’re out there.

    A chickadee flew into my window once, and I did what Cindy did–check the Google. Went outside, picked the stunned bird up–eyes were open and he was quivering all over–and cupped my hands around it. Pretty soon I felt real movement. Opened my hands and he flew away. When they’re stunned warming them in your hands can do the trick.

  8. This does not surprise me at all! Cindy is a nurturer….not just to animals, but to her friends as well. Thank-you for being you Cindy! And Slugger is a lucky little hummer that found the right home on 212! (Love the pics!)

  9. Donna says:

    Love hummers from way back. So nice to hear of a successful rescue and a grateful rescuee! Great story!

  10. Cindy Gerard says:

    Hi Donna – yes – I had posted Slugger’s photos on FB and got a lot of responses from people who knew much more about helping him than I did. I was grateful for everyone’s advice. Those little creatures just touch everyone’s hearts.

  11. loisgreiman says:

    I’m so touched, Cindy. Thanks for saving the wee one. We get quite a few hummers on the farm during the summer, but I didn’t know about the torpor thing. Very interesting. When we were in Costa Rica we saw dozens of them.

    • Cindy Gerard says:

      The torpor thing was new to me, too, so I read up on it. I guess sometimes people run across hummers hanging upside down in trees and think they’re dead but they’re really in torpor. So – if you ever see a hummingbird on the ground and it looks dead – give it a little while before you bury it :o) It might just be in torpor. Amazing, huh?

  12. Connie Fischer says:

    How wonderful that you cared enough to save this beautiful creature! My husband and I spent the summer in the NC mountains and the home we rented had hummingbird feeders and bright flowers. We would sit on the deck and they would come up often to feed. One day, I had a bright pink top on and the little darling buzzed right into me thinking I was a big flower. As an aside, I just finished reading Daisy Goodwin’s “The American Heiress” and found that during the early 1900’s in the U.S. the rich would have parties where hummingbirds were captured and painted colors to match the evening’s decor. They were released during the evening to flutter around. They then died and were swept up in the morning. I was truly shocked at reading that. So glad people are more civilized now!

  13. catslady says:

    Your story made my day. I’ve tried to save some baby mice that fell off a roof but they didn’t make it. Luckily, I’ve had better luck with ferals/strays although I’ve lost one small, cold kitten that came to me too late and one that got hit by a car but my best rescue was a 4/5 week kitten covered in motor oil that I had for 13 wonderful years. Unfortunately, I have a 15 yr. old (Baby, a Maine Coone) that is in his final days. It’s so painful but I wouldn’t change trying.

  14. Julia says:

    Congrats on saving Slugger! Love love hummers. it’s been so hot and dry this TX summer, tho, that I think our older hummers beat feet for (wetter and cooler) parts north as soon as the babies left the nest. Thought I had only females for awhile, then a birder friend told me the juvenile males don’t develop coloration for awhile. Yup, now we have some males. But…they don’t use the feeder. Zip all over the flowers (in our irrigated front garden) but only one, occasionally, comes to the feeder. Making same sugar water formula as always. ???

    • Cindy Gerard says:

      I use 8 oz water and 4 rounded tsp of sugar and mix it well. The nectar will sour though, so if it’s been out in the feeder for a while – especially in the heat – it may have gone bad and hummers will avoid it. Also, if the feeder is dirty they won’t feed – and that can happen over night if bugs get in it. so you might try taking it down, washing it out good (no soap, only hot water and a toothbrush) and refilling it.
      So sorry about your heat and drought. We’ve been watching it on the news and hoping it would end soon!

  15. Cindy, I loved this story! It says a lot about Slugger’s courage, but even more about your compassion and nurturing instincts.

  16. Susan Connell says:

    Cindy – Next time I feel in a torpor I’m coming to your house. Just please don’t put me in the bathtub – seriously, what a great story. It’s true what Diane K. said, you are a nurturer. What a wonderful end-of-summer experience for you, Tom and all of us. Thank you for sharing. Susan

  17. Nina says:

    I must say I have never in the last 28 years seen a live humming bird and I always thought of them as something very exotic but then I visited Athens, GA last week and at the house I stayed in they had a few of these. We had breakfast outside and they just buzzed around us, one hovered quite near my ear for a moment.
    It was a pretty amazing experience because they’re so little and so… I dunno, I just love birds 🙂
    I tried to take pictures but they didn’t like it when it was just me, sitting there all quiet with my camera but they came when everyone else was outside, making noise (when I couldn’t unfortunately take pics).
    It’s great to see a story like yours, people helping nature out 🙂

  18. Deb Webb says:

    What an awesome story! I love hummingbirds! You and Tom are heroes!

  19. Keri Ford says:

    Love this story! my grandma gets upwards of 50-75 at times. it’s CRAZY and she’s nonstop filling her feeders. living out in the backwoods, we’ve had several animals that mom always ends up nursing that stepdad finds and brings home. oppossums, rabbits, squirrels and a couple times–baby deer! Some make it. some don’t. Mom keeps whatever that milk animals can have in the pantry on hand for them just in case.

  20. Wendy says:

    Hummingbirds are my favorite. Years ago when I looked out the window I saw one hanging upside down on the feeder. I thought he was dead, and couldn’t figure out what had killed him. I went outside, with a glove on – I pushed him up & he just came to life & flew away! When I researched online there were a few articles that if they somehow get upside down they can’t right themselves, or let go. I was happy he was o.k. just like little Slugger.

    • Cindy Gerard says:

      Wendy – I’m betting that he was in torpor. He might have been sleeping, but you never know.
      But those articles might have also been right. You never know :o)

      • Wendy says:

        I hadn’t heard of that before, but I bet you are right. I asked the DOW about either leaving the feeders up or if we should take them down. We still have a few babies this year so I was worried. I have also left them up every year for the same reason that you mentioned – to help strays from farther North flying by (we are in Northern Colorado). He said the birds know on their own by instinct with the way the light is, and the temperatures when to leave. He did tell me I should take the feeders down as the bears may get injured trying to get into them before hibernation. We have only had one bear walk through that I know of in all these years. I hate to take the feeders down as we still have a few hummingbirds left too & I want them to drink up & get all the nutrition they can before their long flight. It’s hard to know the right thing to do with our wild animal friends, be we do the best we can. What you two did for Slugger? That was beyond amazing!

  21. Marilyn says:

    Awesome! I love a good rescue story. He looks so cute in the African violet. And FYI to the hummer police, you did not harbor him, you saved his life. Big difference.

  22. Karen Ware says:

    Cindy, your story about Slugger is adorable! As a kid I was always trying to save any little critters I’d see needing help. Most of the time the outcome wasn’t what I wanted but occasionally we’d manage to save a life or two.

    So glad to see he is hanging around for a bit before heading south…and sweet to think perhaps he was buzzing you a “Thank you”.

    • Cindy Gerard says:

      Karen. I know – hey may not have had a clue that I actually helped him but he sure didn’t mind getting close to me that extra minute. It was really sweet.

      And Wendy – we don’t have bears in our neck of the woods but I hadn’t thought about the feeders being a problem.

      It’s really cool here this morning – 39 degrees. I just refilled a feeder because one of the hummers was buzzing around it and it had just gone empty. I could hardly get it back up and he was back, buzzing around me as I hung it. Greedy little guys :o)

  23. I LOVE this story. Got chills just reading it. I would have had no idea what to do (like you did!)

    We love hummers. We used to set up multiple feeds and watch the hummer wars. So much fun!

    Thank you for sharing your story and saving this little guy.

  24. Cindy Gerard says:

    Cynthia – Hummer wars. I love that. It is kind of like watching inter galactical star ships duking it out in the air. Sweet and ferocious little creatures they are :o)

  25. Cindy you and Tom are so wonderful to help that little guy! For the last two years I’ve had a hummer nest in the tree right outside of my office window. I am always amazed at how tiny the eggs are and and how fierce mama and daddy hummer are! We have lots and lots of flowers in our back yard for the many hummingbirds in the area and a feeder too. I can look outside any window and usually find one flitting around a hibiscus or bird of paradise.

  26. Pingback: Cindy Gerard: Carey’s Spotlight Hits the New York Times Best-Selling Author « Kiss and Thrill

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