Rescuing a hummingbird

Photo credit: Dick Daniels

During an August summer trip to visit my husband’s family in Michigan, I rescued a hummingbird!

Here’s what happened: I was standing near the garage debating whether I should join the baseball game in the front yard or pull out a different distraction to engage my nephew and niece. As I was mulling over the merits of a misshapen hula hoop versus a tennis racket, my nephew started yelling, “There’s a hummingbird, there’s a hummingbird, there’s a hummingbird!”

I looked up and saw my nephew frantically running around the garage pointing at a small flying thing. Sure enough it was a hummingbird! First, I have to say I was pretty impressed that my nephew knew it was a hummingbird, he’s five. Second, I had no idea what to do.

Immediately, I thought of a similar situation where a hummingbird flew into an open door at my yoga center and it turned into a disaster. The ceilings in the building are super high and every time someone tried to help the hummingbird, it panicked and flew higher and higher out of reach. We could hear the hummingbird chirping during class and desperately wished the bird would allow us to rescue it, but it wouldn’t and the poor thing died. Alas, during the hummingbird’s panicked state it wasn’t able to figure out that it could just fly back out the open door.

In this case, we were dealing with a much, much larger open garage door, but I could tell from watching the hummingbird that it was also in panic mode and seemed intent on finding an exit through the back wall, which obviously wasn’t going to work very well. My nephew, niece and I just watched the terrified hummingbird fly around for a couple of minutes while I wracked my brain for a solution. Then suddenly, the hummingbird landed on the garage wall about 3.5 feet above the ground right in front of us.

Hummingbirds are not known for sitting around, which indicated that this was one exhausted bird. I was also shocked it landed so close to where we were standing out of all the nooks and crannies in the garage. Did the bird know we were friends and not foes? Or was it just out of its mind?

Before I could react, my nephew jumped into action, “I’m going to rescue it, I’m going to rescue it!” Now I knew my nephew had only the best intentions, but I wasn’t sure if it was a good idea for him to rescue the bird. Yet, he was so excited, could I be the one to tell him no and dash his rescue aspirations? I had to buy some time, so I said, “First, we need some gloves.” My nephew went straight into action mode and started hopping over lawn mowers and knocking over rakes as he yelled, “I know where the gloves are.”

As he dug for gloves, I contemplated my options: Should I just let him try to rescue it? But what if he actually hurts the poor bird and is scarred for life and a potential future career as a bird researcher is ruined? Heck, maybe he could actually pull it off and do a better job; it’s not like I know how to rescue a hummingbird. Or is there a nice way to say no without coming off like a jerk Aunt?

Then a small voice spoke from behind me: “You can’t let him rescue it. He’s going to hurt it.” I turned around and discovered my niece with a look on her face imploring me to stop her brother; by the way she’s three. That’s it I thought, the Buddha has spoken. I reassured her that I would rescue the bird and as my nephew excitedly returned with the gloves I asked him, “Is it okay if I do it?” Right away he said, “Sure, sure,” and gave me the gloves. Phew!

Miraculously, the hummingbird was still sitting in the same place. I put the gloves on and approached the hummingbird. Very carefully, I placed my hands around the bird and gently tried to pull it from the wall, but it was holding on so tight it wouldn’t budge. Then I used my right hand and cautiously lifted it off the wall and then cupped my hands around the hummingbird so I was barely touching it. At first, the bird just sat in my palm really still, but suddenly it started fluttering its wings. I quickly walked outside and placed the hummingbird on the ground and it instantly flew away. Hooray! What a relief.

Later, I looked up all the hummingbirds that frequent Michigan and I’m pretty sure we rescued a female ruby-throated hummingbird because it was all green on the back with black tail feathers. Of course, I didn’t have time to take a picture during the rescue mission and the lighting in the garage wasn’t that great, but if I had to pick, that’s my best identification guess.

After the hummingbird liberation, I went back in the garage and thanked the rest of the rescue team. The entire event is one summer memory I will always treasure and I hope my nephew and niece will remember it too.

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