Monday, September 30, 2013

An Unexpected Guest: Hummingbird in the House

As a nature loving family, the kids and I are always on the look-out for critters in need of roadside assistance in our daily travels.  Caterpillars, turtles, praying mantises, frogs, name it, we stop to lend a helping hand if at all possible (and safe to do so).

This past week we were surprised to pass what looked like a hummingbird slowly hopping across one of our back country roads.  I stopped the van and backed up to take a closer look.  Yep, definitely a little hummingbird.  On closer inspection, she appeared to have no injuries and everything looked as it should, but she could not fly.  Thinking the poor thing must have been nicked by a passing vehicle and gotten her marbles shaken up a bit, we took her home. Ideally, we were hoping she simply needed peace and quiet, something to eat and a little bit of time to get her wings back - then she'd be on her way.

Well, things didn't go quite so ideally.  I did some research on what specific needs our unexpected guest had...which turned out went beyond needing nectar alone.  Hummingbirds also need protein.  If they go without it for more than 4 hours or so you run the risk of potentially crippling the tiny birds.

So this meant we needed bugs.  Teeny tiny, itty bitty bugs.  Lots of teeny tiny, itty bitty bugs.  Hmmm....this was not something we were likely to be very successful at.  This called for more research - which led me to this online site:  How to Rescue a Hummingbird.   It was there and on a few other sites, as well as some books we fetched from our local library, that suggested combining home-made nectar (1 part sugar to 4 parts water) with hard boiled egg yolk and crushed up insects (yum).
The oh-so-appetizing
 concoction of
homemade nectar,
hard-boiled egg yolk
and freeze dried bloodworms.
Just shake and serve. 

Having just spent most of the summer raising a couple hundred tree frog tadpoles (a whole other adventure) we happened to have on hand some freeze dried bloodworms (high in protein).  So we mixed these in with the egg yolk and sugar water and shook up a delicious evening cocktail for our little visitor. She seemed impressed with our culinary skills.

The next morning I fully expected she would be ready to take off.  No such luck.  Her wings seem to work fine - she flutters, she flaps, but she doesn't fly.  So now we shifted our focus and wondered if she was not an injured adult but instead a late fledgling - a juvenile that had not yet learned to fly and somehow ended up where she should not have been.  Well, this put a whole new spin on the situation.

Hummingbirds are migratory birds, they head south to warmer weather where the flowers and insects are still abundant.   If this little guest of ours was a non-flying juvenile, would she be able fly soon enough and well enough to make the long journey?  A journey in which her food sources might be few and far between?  This complicated things. Over the next couple days I continued my research and the kids and I continued to make little Pippin (a hobbit name that seemed fitting for either a girl or boy hummingbird - though our friend would appear to be a female) feel as welcome and content as we possibly could.  

on our
family nature walk.
With our busy schedule, this included tagging along with us on a family nature walk, hanging out at a craft show that my 12 year old daughter shared a booth at, and attending our Sunday morning church service and following potluck dinner. We took her for walks outside in the sunshine, helped her exercise and strengthen her little wings, provided her with drinks from the flowers we still had blooming in our yard (and a variety we came across on our nature walk), and told her constantly what a beautiful little creature she was and how she was destined to be a fabulous flyer.  A little self esteem boost never hurt anyone.

Hanging out with Zach.
Later this week, our unexpected guest will be settled into her new home.  Through our state DNR website, I contacted a local songbird/migratory bird rehabilitator and she will be taking Pippin in.  This wonderful lady will work with her on learning to fly and will even care for her through the winter months so she doesn't have to risk braving the elements as a novice flyer on her first flight south. Then in the spring, she'll release Pippin back into nature.

The kids and I have been blessed to share this little snippet of time with Pippin and I admit that I will miss our quirky little friend.  But I am also confident and reassured that she will be in good hands...and conveniently, only about 10 minutes away.

Pippin enjoying some time
outdoors - hanging out on our marigolds.

Pippin's temporary home - an old basket with a
tiny wooden skewer for a perch.

The detail and color of her feathers is simply gorgeous.