When you come across a hummingbird that is sick, wounded, stunned, or stuck, it can be a heartbreaking experience. Their small size makes them extremely vulnerable and helpless especially if they get injured.
What this situation calls for is keeping your nerves calm to make smarter decisions that work the best for the hummingbird. Remember your priority should be its health and not self-amusement.
If you see an injured hummingbird, you can help it out. Observe the bird and take action according to the situation. If you decide to take it inside your home, place it in a shoe box and give it warmth and food. If the bird has healed you can free it, otherwise, contact a professional.
Hummingbirds are the tiniest migrating birds, weighing less than a nickel on average.
Hummingbird treatment and first aid can only be performed by a qualified rehabilitator, such as a wildlife specialist or a veterinarian with experience with hummingbirds. You can observe the bird, bring it inside, place it in a shoe box and give it warmth and food until a professional arrives.
There are a few things you can do to assist with hummingbird treatment until you can get in touch with one. Hummingbirds are not like your average birds and nursing them especially in such a situation can be a huge responsibility.
Before you bring them in and start providing any care, you have to be sure that you are equipped to handle this; both mentally and physically.
Here are the some steps you can follow if you see an injured hummingbird on the ground:
|1||Assess the hummingbird’s situation and decide on an action|
|2||Gently pick up the bird|
|3||Take it inside and place it in a shoebox|
|4||Provide warmth to the bird|
|5||Feed the bird|
Before you decide on a course of action, observing the bird and the surroundings is a good idea. You need to check for a few things:
See if the bird is alive
Try to figure out how the bird got injured
Check if there is a predator around
Look for the bird’s nest
It can often get difficult to decipher whether the bird is still alive or not. If you can see that the bird is breathing or there is any sign of its eyes opening, try reaching out to it.
An injured hummingbird is very weak and your action has to be immediate. You have to be fast to assess the situation and decide on a plan.
If the bird was attacked by a predator, it is most likely that the predator is still lurking around. Assessing the situation will help you stay mindful and alert in case the animal tries to attack again. You will also stay close or leave someone to attend to the bird while you fetch necessary items to rescue it.
If the bird has fallen from the nest, the best thing would be to try to place it back. If the nest is at a high location and the bird’s condition is stable you can try placing it. Hang a basket as high as practically possible. Place the bird in it and watch for the parent’s return.
Before placing the bird insight the nest make sure it hasn’t been infested by ants or other insects. If the nest is clear, gently pick up the hummingbird and return it to the nest.
Do not hesitate to touch or pick the bird up. The myth is not true that bird will get abandoned by its mother if touched by a human.
If the parent bird isn’t visible within two hours, it’s time to act on your own. Remember that time is crucial and the hummingbird must receive professional care within 4 hours.
Hummingbird babies keep themselves safe by wrapping their toes into the nest lining.
When you pick up the hummingbird, check if the feet have anything attached. Do not try removing anything from the feet. Hummingbirds have powerful toes, and taking something from their grasp can snap their fragile bones.
Remember that the bird is very small and delicate. You need to channel the softest version of yourself when it comes to dealing with these birds. Try to not make any sudden movements so that the bird doesn’t feel threatened.
Any extra notice or motion may scare the bird, forcing it to attempt to fly. Ensure that the bird feels comfortable. Any unnecessary attempts to fly or protect themselves may cause further damage to the bird. Since the bird is tiny, you can try cupping the bird to pick it up.
Your hands should be stable and well gripped. It is very likely that the bird will struggle and being unprepared can result you in dropping the bird.
A hummingbird may curl in itself like a ball to indicate that it’s freezing and wants to be heated up.
After you take the bird inside, carefully place it inside a shoe box. Roll up a cloth or tissue paper to create a nest imitation for the bird. Close the box, provided that you have inserted holes for sufficient ventilation. The bird needs warmth, darkness, and privacy to start the healing process.
The material of anything placed within the shoe box has to be in consideration. Don't place anything that the bird’s feet may get entangled in.
Even after you pick up the bird, the most important thing is to constantly observe. The way the bird will move or behave will indicate if your decisions or your treatment are working.
If you see the bird curling up, it means it is feeling cold. Extending its body or opening its beak is a sign of feeling hot. In either case, adjust the warmth or relocate the bird.
When the bird is warm, its feathers will smoothen. It will also open its eyes a bit more comfortably.
Warmth is very important especially during the initial time of the care. As I mentioned before, carefully observing the bird will reveal when enough heat has been provided. There are a few things that you can do:
You can place a heating pad on the top of the lid
You can alternate this with a hot water bottle
The cloth or towel you place inside can also be microwaved
Skillfully keep the hummingbird between your thumb and index finger to easily warm it up.
Warm the hummingbird by placing it near a bulb.
Everything you place should be warm but not too hot. We do not want to burn or harm the bird with the heat.
The next step that accelerates the healing process is feeding the bird. This however will not always be the case. Before you attempt to feed the birds anything, you need to ask yourself a few questions:
Is the bird comfortable and warm?
Can you see feathers on the bird?
The feeding process has to be as natural as possible. This can only happen once the bird is calm and does not feel threatened by you. If you do not see smooth feathers on the bird, do not attempt to feed it. The best shot the bird will have is with the professionals.
If you do see feathers on the bird, you can try giving it sugar water. If the bird drinks, the sugar water can be enough to wake it up or alleviate it from its weak state.
Do not add anything else to the sugar water. Also don’t offer the hummingbird any other substances or insects. Sugar water will keep the hummingbird alive till you can get it to a rehabilitation facility, where it will be fed a healthy diet before being released back into the wild.
Collect a bit of sugar water in a dropper and take it close to the bird. First, see if the bird tries to approach the dropper itself. Be aware that the hummingbird just uses its tiny legs to rest on and move horizontally when perched. They cannot walk or hop. Do not mistake this as part of their injury.
If the bird is still very meek, you can also try touching the back of its head and neck. This act of affection will encourage your bird to feel comfortable and feed in your presence.
In some cases, it can be very difficult to decipher whether the bird has started feeding. The long beak does not make it any easier.
You can check if the bird is feeding by looking at the liquid. If it has fed on it, you will notice bubbles in the sugar water.
Even during feeding remember that the bird is very delicate. If the bird is still too weak you can hold it in one hand while the dropper is in another. Do not force the sugar water or squeeze your dropper if the bird is reluctant. This is especially important to prevent choking and spilling of the nectar on its wings.
Sugar water on a hummingbird's feathers may affect the bird's thermoregulation (body temperature control), and flying abilities.
The frequency of feeding the bird will vary depending on the size, age, and condition of the bird. It is normally advised to attempt feeding it at every half an hour.
You can prepare sugar water easily at home. All you need is:
You need to mix sugar and water in the ratio of 1:4. This means that you need to add one tablespoon of sugar to 4 tablespoons of water. Make sure the mixture is thoroughly mixed. To avoid any crystal remainders, you can use refined sugar.
You can fill your dropper with the feed and refrigerate the remaining for later. Do not add any store-bought substances or red dye. That can be extremely harmful to the bird.
Always bear in mind that keeping a hummingbird in captivity is illegal in the United States.
Once the bird starts healing, start making small preparations to help it return to the wild. As much as you would love to keep the bird, remember that there are laws in the United States that strictly forbid it.
There are other ways to enjoy a hummingbird sight. Read my blog to find out the reasons why hummingbirds aren’t coming to your backyard.
The bird will soon start feeding independently and even attempt to fly. That is an indication that you must let the bird go. It is ideal to take the bird exactly where you found it. The area will be familiar to the bird itself and any parent birds that might be on the lookout for their baby will find the hummingbird you release.
Before freeing the bird, feed it one last time. This will keep its stomach full, giving it time to start finding more feed when it is released.
If however, you see the health deteriorating do not risk the health of the bird. Immediately contact a professional and hand over its care to them.
You may also find yourself in a situation when the bird isn’t injured but is trapped inside a building. You can start by figuring out two things:
Where did the hummingbird fly in from?
What was it attracted to?
It may have been a window or a door that was opened previously but has now gotten shut. Your best chance to lure the bird out of the area is through the path it entered. This is the path that they are most familiar with.
This is why you will see the bird hovering around the roof looking for the same exit. You may also find it attempting to push through the glass windows that seem open.
Darken the area the hummingbird is in. The only light visible should ideally be coming from the place it should fly out of. Another thing you can do to attract the bird is place a red feeder near the exit.
Holding the bird and bringing it out yourself should be the very last resort. If nothing is working then you may gently pick up the bird. Remember that the bird is tiny and will feel threatened. Make it comfortable by not making any excessive or unnecessary noise or movement.
If you see a hummingbird fly into something and fall don’t intervene unless it’s necessary. It is very difficult to differentiate between an unconscious hummingbird or one that in a torpor state. Observe for about fifteen minutes before you make a move.
Sometimes hummingbirds fly with such great speed that they may get knocked over by unnoticed obstacles. This happens mostly when a feeder is placed near a glass window.
Ensure that the area is safe from animals or it isn’t cold. If the hummingbird regains consciousness on its own, there is no need to unnecessarily hold it. Just keep a feeder full of sugar water nearby in case its hungry.
If, however, the bird does not move for a while you may have to step in and take care of the little creature. In this situation, you can follow all the above-mentioned steps and assist the bird in healing.
Keep in mind that not all hummingbirds can be nursed back to health. Hummingbirds are delicate and fragile birds. Just a small percentage of hummingbirds survive injuries, accidents, or illness.
Hummingbirds are perhaps the most difficult species to rehabilitate, according to even the most experienced hummingbird recovery expert.
Don’t be too disappointed if a hummingbird you’re hoping to save doesn’t make it. You can always prepare your backyard to attract these beautiful birds.
One thing you can do, however, is stock up on knowledge. Read up more about birds, especially hummingbirds. This will keep you equipped the next time you have a surprise visitor or a guest that needs to be tended. You can start by catching up on these impressive facts about hummingbird nests.
My name is Inigo and I'm the the founder of Bird Watching USA! I started Bird Watching with My father-in-law many years ago, and I've become an addict to watching these beautiful creatures. I've learnt so much over about bird watching over the years that I want to share with the world everything I know about them!
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