Written by Paul O’Connor of Florida
I was employed as an electrical engineer at an industrial electronic supplier just south of Birmingham, Alabama. I was the last to leave for the day and was checking to make sure the warehouse was locked when I noticed a very small bird lying on the floor near the office door. It was a ruby-throated hummingbird. At first I thought it was dead, another victim of being caught in the warehouse unable to fly out, distracted by the white ceiling and the lights. As I approached her, she started to move her head a little.
I decided to move fast and gently cupped her in my hands to keep her from escaping back within the warehouse. I could feel her trying to escape from my hands so I made a hasty retreat for the outside. When I made it outside, I opened my hands as she took flight. She was only able to fly about ten feet and hit the ground. At that point, I knew she would be too weak to fly and search for nourishment. I decided that I would take her home and somehow feed her until she was strong enough to make it on her own. I went back into the office and found a cardboard box to put her into for the ride home. She was semi-conscience when I picked her up and placed her in the box. I thought this must be the torpor state that they get into when they run out of nourishment.
I Took Her Home for the Night
I took her home and went to the store to purchase hummingbird food, hummingbird feeder and a small birdcage. The cage I bought was just the right size, cylindrical with a plastic bottom, which would make a perfect release cage when the time came.
I removed her from the box and placed her in the cage, where I was able to put her on the perch. Her feet locked onto the perch. I mixed up a batch of hummingbird nectar and started to feed her with a q-tip soaked with the nectar. When I touched the end of her beak with the q-tip, her little tongue started to dart out and lick the nectar. All the time, she kept her eyes tightly shut. I thought her being in a torpor state caused this, but it also kept her calm. I fed her every 15 minutes for the rest of the evening.
The following morning she was wide-awake and started to fly within the cage when she saw me. I decided that she was ready to leave since she had all night to rest and feeding her in her fully awakened state would not be an option. I took the cage outside to the back porch and unsnapped the cage bottom from the metal frame and lifted it upward. All the while, she was hovering inside the cage. To my surprise, when I lifted the cage, she stayed inside hovering in sync with the cage. I lowered the cage to the porch and swiftly lifted the cage and out she came. She flew to the trees in our backyard and disappeared from view. I mounted the hummingbird feeder on the back porch in view of the kitchen window, in case she might return for more food. I then went to work.
The Swarm Arrives!
That evening when I returned home from work, I saw a sight that was quite amazing when I looked out the kitchen window. There, hovering around the feeder, was a swarm of hummingbirds. I counted more than twenty birds all flying around while taking turns feeding. I have never before or since seen that many hummingbirds together at one time. From my past experience, by their very nature, hummingbirds are very territorial and will wear themselves out chasing each other away from the feeder. When I first saw them, I thought that they were there, in their own way, to express their gratitude for saving one of their own.
Our house was located on the ridge of a small mountain (elev. 740 feet) and throughout the fall season many migratory birds would fly quite low over the house on their way south for the winter. I’m sure that it was just coincidental that they all showed up when they did, but it still warms my heart when I think about it. It was a very humbling experience to have had an opportunity to care for one of these small birds, and one that I will never forget.