HOW TO HELP NEEDY HUMMINGBIRDS

Wildlife Rehabilators for Sick or Injured Hummingbirds

Keeping a listing of wildlife rehabilitators is beyond the scope of this site.  If you are in immediate need of a rehabilitator, go to the website of The American Humane Society.  They keep an up-to-date listing by state and the link is below:

American Humane Society Wildlife Rehabilitators

Helping Overwintering Hummingbirds

Hummingbirds (especially Rufous and Anna's) are increasingly being found overwintering in cold climates.  If you have a hummingbird that wants to stay the winter, there are ways you can help him out.  I say "him" because it is usually a male who will choose to stay.  

First of all, continue to hang your feeders and increase the concentration of the solution to 1 part sugar to 3 parts water.  When sugar concentrations are high, intake is lower.  Less consumption of cold food requires less energy to warm it to body temperature.  (This is the advice given by ornithologist Sheri L. Williamson, a hummingbird expert.)   

Freezing food can be a problem. A 3:1 solution will require a lower temperature for freezing than a 4:1 solution, but it will still freeze at low temperatures.  Using window feeders can help by transferring some of the indoor heat to the feeder.  You can take regular feeders in at night, but you would have to put them back out at first light.  Try to place the feeder in a protected area away from wind and snow.  Another way to warm the feeder is to hand an outdoor incandescent flood light near it to keep it heated above the freezing point.

Photo by Oscar Palmquist

Fallen Nest or Fallen Baby Hummers

Baby hummingbirds are not good fliers and sometimes they will fall out of the nest.  If the nest is low enough, you can put it back.  If you cannot reach it, make a makeshift nest out of a box or small container with cloth to pad the bottom.  Attach the surrogate nest to a limb as close to view from the original nest as you can get.  Do not put food or water in the nest.  Do not leave the bird on the ground, as it will become prey for a night feeder.

You can do the same for a nest that has been blown out of a tree.  Make the surrogate nest and attach it as close to the original nest as possible.  The mother will find it and continue caring for her young.  Remember, these birds mature quickly and your nest only has to last a week or two.

Do not handle the baby bird any more than necessary, and remember that the bird is very fragile.

The picture is of a makeshift nest made out of the bottom of a plastic bottle by CaSondra of Boise, Idaho.  She reported that the mother continued to feed the babies and they fledged.

Feeding a Hummingbird That Needs Help

Sometimes a stunned hummingbird or one that has been trapped and is exhausted can be helped by giving it a drink to replenish its energy so it can fly off.  You can gently hold the bird (remembering how fragile they are) and dip its beak into a feeder port as shown in the picture.  You can also use a glass eyedropper with nectar.  Don't squeeze it into the birds mouth or you can drown it.  Just let it use its own tongue to get the nectar.  If the bird will not drink, there might be an injury you cannot see.  Put the bird on a soft towel in a box with a loose fitting lid and get it to a wildlife rehabber.

Hummingbird Trapped in a Garage or House

Hummingbirds become trapped inside frequently.  If you garage door is open and one sees that red Craftsman tool chest, they will think it is food and fly right in.  Once inside they become confused and keep trying to fly up against a glass window or they will keep flying up at the ceiling looking for a way out.  If this happens, hang a feeder from the handle on the garage door so they will go to it and be able to get out.  Another thing you can do to help an exhausted bird is provide a perch for it to stop and rest.  I have used a pool net, since they have very long handles.  More than one hummingbird has grabbed onto it and I was able to bring it down and outside.  If none of this works, have a feeder ready.  Once the bird becomes completely exhausted it will drop to the floor.  Gently pick it up and place its beak into a port on the feeder.  Soon you will see throat movements as the bird begins to replenish its energy with the nectar.  The bird will revive in a few minutes and fly away.

A Stunned Hummingbird (hitting a window etc)

Most of the time stunned birds are indeed just stunned and will recover and fly away.  But because of their high metabolic demands, hummingbirds have less time.  If you see a hummingbird that has flown into a window and is on the ground, approach it slowly.  Gently pick it up and look for obvious signs of injury such as a dropped wing, broken bill or any blood.  Keep the bird low to the ground so it doesn't get startled and fall.  You can offer the bird nectar by dipping its beak into a feeder port.  You will be able to see if it drinks by movements in its throat.  If the bird is just stunned it should revive and fly off.  If it does not recover, place the bird on a soft towel in a box with a loose lid and get it to your local rehabber.

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