Care of an Injured Hummingbird
Hummingbirds fly so rapidly that it may seem like they're immune to injury, but in reality, life is very dangerous for the tiny birds.
Millions of hummingbirds are killed each year as a result of weather, disease or injury, and unfortunately, most injuries occur when the tiny acrobats fly into windows or are caught by cats. It's important to keep in mind that injured hummingbirds will often die in spite of our best efforts, but if the bird is tended to immediately, they can sometimes be rejuvenated and returned to the wild.
Look for Sign of Injury
Walk to the injured hummingbird slowly, and don't make any sudden movements. Sit near the bird and extend both hands. If the hummingbird is just stunned, this may be enough to cause it to fly. If not pick up the injured hummingbird with both hands cupped underneath, and gently raise it to eye level so you can take a closer look. Look closely for any signs of injury such as a broken wing, blood, or a broken bill.
Feeding the Hummingbird
If no injury is apparent, hold the hummingbird gently between your thumb and forefinger and guide its bill into a feeding hole on a hummingbird feeder. This is crucial, because hummingbirds will die if they go four hours without eating. Gently slide the hummingbird's beak in and out of the feeder. If you don't have a hummingbird feeder, mix a teaspoon of sugar with 4 teaspoons of warm water, and put it in a syringe (without the needle) or an eye dropper. Guide the bird's head towards the dropper, but don't squeeze because the bird can choke or drown. If you see its throat and head vibrating, or its tongue darting rapidly, you will know it's eating. Feeding may rejuvenate the hummingbird, so hold it in your open palm to give it an opportunity to fly. If the hummingbird doesn't drink willingly, never force it.
Keeping the Hummingbird Safe
If your close inspection revealed that the bird is injured, or if you've attempted to feed it and it still hasn't revived, put it in a small box with a lid. Put a folded paper towel or a tissue in the bottom of the box to cushion the bird, but don't use fabric, because the hummingbird's feet can get tangled in the cloth. Poke several holes in the lid so the hummingbird will have enough air, and put the box in a safe outdoor location, out of reach of dogs, cats, or other predators. If the weather is cold, put the box near a light bulb, but don't allow the bird to overheat.
Contact an Expert
If the hummingbird still hasn't revived, the next step is to call a wildlife rehabilitator. While it's fine to call a veterinarian, keep in mind that most vets don't have specialized knowledge about birds, especially wild birds. If you can't locate a wildlife rehabilitator in your area, contact your local Department of Fish and Wildlife. It's important to seek help as soon as possible so that injuries can be properly attended, and so the bird can receive nourishment. Sugar water provides carbohydrates that give the bird energy, but doesn't have protein that the bird requires in order to survive.
M.H. Dyer began her writing career as a staff writer at a community newspaper and is now a full-time commercial writer. She writes about a variety of topics, with a focus on sustainable, pesticide- and herbicide-free gardening. She is an Oregon State University Master Gardener and Master Naturalist and holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative nonfiction writing.