Hummingbirds are delicate and complex. It is best to get an injured, sick, or orphaned bird to a wildlife rehabilitation facility as soon as possible.
A sick or injured hummingbird can become very ill if they are not able to maintain their feeding schedule. They must receive medical attention and food as soon as possible. If the bird is active, bring it immediately to a wildlife facility. If it is showing signs of weakness, you may have to attempt to feed it prior to transporting it. See below for tips on rescue and feeding.
Reasons to rescue
- Hummingbirds do not see the glass when flying towards the object they see in its reflection. If you find a bird that has struck a window, pick up the bird gently and place in a safe place to rest temporarily. If it was merely stunned, it just needs a place away from pets and direct sun, to get their sense of balance back.
- If it is bleeding or gasping, place it gently in a small box lined with tissue or a paper towel, bring it indoors to a quiet spot, and either call for assistance or prepare to bring in.
- If it has been more then 15 minutes, it will need to eat. If it is not gasping, you can offer it some sugar water temporarily. (See instructions below)
- If the bird starts to really perk up and you think it does not need medical attention, take the box outside and monitor for another 15-20 minutes. If it starts to fly, continue to monitor. It may think it’s ready and crash. If that occurs, it must come in for medical attention.
- If it is getting late in the day, do not allow it to take off in the dark.
- Hummingbirds are extremely territorial
- One hummingbird may try to claim an entire feeding spot and will fight any intruder.
- During breeding season, aggression becomes even more severe.
- Eye and wing injuries are the most common injuries seen during the early winter months when breeding takes place.
- If you find a bird with an injured eye or wing, it will require medical attention as soon as possible.
Cat Caught Hummingbirds
- Even though a hummingbird is quick, cats can catch them.
- Often, a cat finds a bird already injured
- The bite of a cat can be deadly to all birds.
- Hummingbirds need to be treated with medication to counteract the deadly saliva as quickly as possible. Time is of the essence.
- If you think a bird was caught by a cat, or you have already gently removed it from your own cats’ mouth, it will need medical attention. Even if you don’t see injuries, there may be tiny punctures. It is best to assume that the cat has punctured the skin and seek help.
- Place the bird in a small box lined with tissue, poke air holes and cover.
- If you will be more then 20 minutes in getting to the nearest wildlife facility, it is ok to offer some sugar water. (see below for instructions)
- A bird that flies inside of a structure can be difficult to remove.
- Their natural- instinct is to fly up and not out the open door or window.
- Keep the bird flying until it starts to tire and either flies low enough to escape or becomes easy enough to gently grasp.
- Prepare a sugar water solution before attempting to capture or coax out.
- If it takes more than 15 minutes to remove the bird, it will deplete its energy stores. If capture is required, it will need to be offered food before attempting to let it go outside.
- A healthy hummingbird should be active, flying and vocally about defending their territory. It is usually easy to spot an ill bird.
- Hummingbirds that look puffed out like a ball, and stay perched, or have their eyes closed and/or tongues extending out of their bills need medical attention.
- By the time, they are easy to spot, they are usually quite ill.
- If you see a bird flying around with a mal-formed beak, thickening or a black bulbous appearance, it needs specific medication and treatment.
- If you see clustered looking growths around the edge of the beak, around the eyes, under the wings and on the legs and feet, it requires medical attention.
- If they are flying around but have growths or mal-formations it may be difficult to catch them. Call for guidance.
- If you do catch a sick bird, handle it gently and place it in a tissue lined box, with air-hold and a lid.
Many hummingbird illnesses can be avoided by taking the following steps:
- Taking care of bird feeders. Bacteria and fungus grow quickly on dirty feeders. Cleaning once a month with soapy water and rinsing with hot water in between fills is all it takes to help keep birds healthy.
- Avoid the use of oils or petroleum products as insect deterrents near or on feeders.
- Do not use pesticides
- Do not use ant traps unless only filled with water.
- Do not feed any hummingbird sugar water for more than 12 hours. It should only be on sugar water long enough to get help.
Feeding a Hummingbird
- Use granulated sugar only.
- Do not use red dye or other sweeteners.
- Add 1-part sugar to 4 parts water. This can be stored in a refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
- Sugar water is only to be used for healthy birds at a feeder or as immediate and temporary energy while working to get them to a wildlife center.
- If a rescued bird must have food before you transport, make sure its body has warmed up a bit in your hand.
- To feed a bird in need, it is best to offer the sugar water in a syringe or eye dropper. If you don’t have that available, find something with a small opening that you can place the bird’s beak in gently. It may take a few times for the bird to start eating. If it does not eat, try again in a few minutes but don’t force it. If it is very weak, it may not eat. Once it starts to eat, you will see the tongue darting in and out or you may see small bubbles. Once it stops eating, let it rest and feed again in 30 minutes. Remember, it is best to get it to a wildlife center as soon as possible.
- If sugar water gets on the bird’s feathers, it is important to clean it off with a damp q-tip.
- Do not handle the bird too long, if at all. Stress from handling can kill a bird just as fast as any injury or illness.
- Note: Sometimes, a bird gets a little sugar on board and tries to fly. Don’t assume it can be released. It may just have a quick surge of energy but will crash if not treated.
For more information about hummingbirds visit: www.hummingbirds.net
- If an entire nest has fallen but is still intact do not remove the babies. Baby hummingbirds secure themselves by weaving their toes around the nest fabric. Removal should be done by a trained professional.
- If the nest is damaged, take the whole thing with babies, and place it in a small plastic container or small box and place it back in the tree. Be sure to only line it with tissue or paper towel. Do not use towels or cloth. The tissue can be snug around them, but the container must have some room for them to grow. The container can be attached by tying it to a tree with zip ties, string, or even duct-tape.
- Parents will not abandon their babies in a new nest or if you have touched it. They have no sense of smell and want to get back to their babies. Do not linger by the nest. You must observe from as far away as possible or the mother will not feel safe to return.
Bird out of nest
- If a baby has fallen out of the nest, check to see if it is injured or very cold.
- If it is cold to the touch, it might need warming and food. Their age determines the type of food, so it is best to call for guidance or bring it in.
Hummingbird ages and requirements when fallen from the nest.
- Hatchling: tiny featherless raisin sized birds. Their beaks are usually yellow with dark colored bodies. Their eyes are usually closed, and they must have heat from their mother. If you see other birds and can reach the nest, place it back in and watch for an hour to see if the mother returns.
- Nestling: their body starts to develop pin or quill like feathers. They no longer require the mother to sit on them to regulate body temperature. She will only fly in to feed them. So, it is important to watch for her before assuming they are abandoned. If you hear the babies calling for more then 15 minutes without the mother arriving, something may have happened to her. That is the only reason for her to stay away that long. If she does not return, you can give them a few drops of sugar water before transporting them to a wildlife center.
- Pre-fledgling or fledgling: These birds are feathered and almost ready to leave the nest. It is best to follow the same steps as with a nestling. Watch for the mother and if they are truly orphaned or injured, place in a warm, quiet, setting in a lined box with air holes and a lid, feed if needed, and get it to a wildlife center as soon as possible.