Fostering a Hummingbird

It’s been an amazing 24 hours. Our neighbor came to the door last night with news that she’d found a baby hummingbird. She spotted the hummingbird on the sidewalk while walking her dog. They brought the bird home but were unable to contact a rescue group on a Sunday night.

Together we went back to the spot a few blocks over hoping to spot the mama and the nest. Alas, no luck.

So…I brought him home. My boys were pretty excited to have a fledgling hummingbird in our midst and a social one at that. They took turns keeping him warm till I figured out a temporary nest.

baby Anna's hummingbird

My oldest son keeps watch for a while

In the end I used a small Sake cup, which is about the size of the nest mama bird would build. I lined the bottom with cotton, then shredded mohair fibers and made a fluffy nest for the night.

hummingbird in homemade nest

Cozy in his homemade nest

Mike made a batch of sugar-water using the formula we put in our feeders: Four parts clear water, and one part sugar. I offered our tiny guest drops of nectar from the tip of my finger. His tiny tongue lapping sugar-water from my finger was almost imperceptible.

He was mellow and trusting and once resting on my thumb, he didn’t want to let go. I eventually transferred him to his surrogate nest and after one last check, turned out the lights.

I should also mention that I live with three cats so finding a safe spot was critical. We have a laundry room off of the guest washroom, so I set him up in there. We used the ‘clean room’ method of walking into one room and closing the door, then going into the inner room and closing that door. Even then, I covered the nest with a ventilated laundry basket *and* a towel.

I tossed and turned in bed this morning starting at 4:00 am. Eventually I gave in and got up to take a look. There he was, cozy in his nest and looking content. I fed him three more times before leaving to take the boys to school. My friend, Laura offered the great tip of feeding him from the end of a drinking straw. In between feedings I did some research online. I checked in with my friend Ellen who volunteers at the Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley. I’ve been listening to Ellen’s stories for months during our shared Pilates class. I know her to be caring and knowledgeable.

Hummingbirds are not easily rehabilitated and require constant care. They must eat every twenty to thirty minutes from dawn till dusk. Can you imagine? I had two clients today, on different sides of town in addition to carpooling three teenagers to school. It would not be possible to give him the care he needed.

Anna's hummingbird

Still waiting for his tail feathers to grow in

After checking in with my client and dropping the teens at school, I drove to the Silicon Valley Wildlife Center one town over. While it was a relief to know the hummingbird was in excellent hands, I was melancholy too.  I connected with the tiny creature and felt just a twinge of sadness when I let him go.

the wildlife center of silicon valley

The Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley. Can you see the mature hummingbird flying toward me in the lower right corner?

Here’s a one-minute video from this morning. I’m feeding him with the tip of a coffee stir straw.

Good to know:

World of Hummingbirds: Hummingbird First Aid

Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley: A Rehabilitation, Release & Educational Facility

How to tell a male from a female?  It’s hard to know

40 thoughts on “Fostering a Hummingbird

  1. Wow! Thanks for including that video! I wonder when they learn to stick their beak into a flower, or a hummingbird feeder and suck the nectar. Feeding him looked tricky! What an experience!

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    • Thanks, Darlene. This bird did a bit of both. He took drops from my finger with his tongue, but preferred to open his mouth when I had the straw. Perhaps one more than the other emulated the mother bird.

      Thank you for watching the video. I love seeing him swallow. There is something so satisfying about feeding him.

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  2. Wow! Fun adventure. I’m glad you had a place to take it. Paul and I were told to take the baby starling we rescued back to where we found it so the mama bird could find it. But I don’t think that’s what happened. 😦

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    • Sheryl, I’ve read a bit about what they call over rescuing birds. If the nest is near by, or if you can safely observe the fledgling while waiting it out, they say the mother will often rescue it. That is not always the case though, and in a crowded city with cats, dogs and people, it’s hard to know if you are doing the right thing. That’s why we went back to the place she found it. We all have good intentions. I wish they would teach this sort of thing in school. So much practical advice goes untaught.

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  3. Gasp! Now I see what you’ve been up too. Such an amazing day for naturing nature. I can’t believe how docile the little hummer is. How lucky to have been found by someone so caring. I’m nestled in my own nest, in the dark and ready to sleep, but I’m so glad to have seen your story before I close my eyes. The poor thing must have been frighten out of it’s mind laying on the hot sidewalk, what a dicey start to life.

    It’s funny that your little feather friend watched as you drove along. Honestly, that’d make a great photo too. But look at that one staring at your camera when you took a picture at the entrance !! Is that not kismet or what? It’s like a little welcoming wagon 😀 “Hello newbie, come on in, you’re in the right place!”

    What an fantastic experience! I’m so happy you had it hon xoxox K

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    • Thank you so much for your good cheer, delivered from your Boomdee nest. A cozy and loving place indeed.

      It was an extraordinary experience, one I won’t soon forget, and thanks to my iphone, I have a tiny bit of video to go with the memories. Ellen texted me today saying he was doing well. It was her day to volunteer so another kismet.

      I hope you slept well and that you enjoyed the day. Did it rain all day or just in the early morning? I know you’ve been dry for awhile too.

      xoxoxo

      Liked by 1 person

  4. How lovely and exciting!! We once saved a humming bird too, slightly older than yours. The neighbor brought it to us after finding it on the floor in his garage. ‘Ours’ drank out of a small tube with sugar water, simply sipping it with that butterfly tongue. It was such a sight!! We were told that humming birds can survive quite a time without food becuase they can shut their body down and come into a kind of hibernation. Our little fellow ( male, he had a red throat, but I do not know about your baby) flew into our garden again, strong as never! Good work Alys!! xo Johanna

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    • Thank you, Johanna. It is exactly that: lovely and exciting.

      How wonderful to hear that you too rescued a hummingbird. How long did you care for him before he returned to the garden?

      The juvenile males and female Anna’s hummingbirds are brown, making it hard to tell the sex. As they mature, the males get that lovely, iridescent red on their gorget.

      The hibernation you mention only happens at night under extreme cold conditions. It’s called topar. They do it to conserve energy, but by morning, need a meal. Interesting article here: http://www.wildbirdsonline.com/articles_hummingbird_cold_nights.html

      They’re fascinating birds, aren’t they? Thanks so much for your kind words of support.

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  5. Oh, what a wonderful thing you did! That is so cool–what an experience. I think you have done exactly the right thing, to take it to people who can give it the best chance of survival, but I can also completely understand the ambivalence you felt in letting it go. Will you get any follow-up info about how it makes out or is it better not to know?

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    • Thank you, Kerry. It was an amazing experience, still fresh in all our minds. I know the little fella is in capable hands and I know too, that we did our best on his behalf.

      I have a case number so I can check in to see how he’s doing. Isn’t that terrific?

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  6. Heartwarming! How lovely you could help him… hope he gets on fine now at the wildlife centre. Will they keep you updated? Thanks for sharing that video! 🙂

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    • Thank you, Cathy.

      I have a case number so I can check in to see how he’s doing. My friend Ellen is volunteering there today, so she can also keep me updated.

      I love watching the video myself, seeing him swallow those tiny drops, so trusting and tender. I hope he makes it in the wild.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. This post that I apparently missed popped up in it’s perfect timing. So glad I didn’t miss the little miracle being played out in your neck of the woods. What a gift!! I told my son about it last night. Yours is quite handsome, in his heart as well. Double the gift. 🙂 Hugs

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