Tuesday, September 1, 2009

How do you remove a hummingbird from your house?

As I was getting ready to head off to work today, Maisy ran into the bathroom all animated indicating there was something exciting I should come investigate. (Picture Lassie and Timmy without the well.)

The back door was open and she had been barking at squirrels on the deck, but she wasn't barking anymore, just wagging her tail and motioning for me to follow. Back in the kitchen I heard a squeaky chirping sound which I thought at first might be a mouse, but then realized it was coming from overhead.

Looking up I spotted a hummingbird frantically bouncing its head on the ceiling repeatedly making this distressing noise. Oh, dear. What do I do? With eleven foot ceilings, I could barely touch the the ceiling with a broom raised over my head. And as soon as I would get close with the broom to direct it toward the door, it would back up like a little helicopter!

It was chirping wildly and I was afraid I would cause the poor thing to have a heart attack and die right there over my head. It did however manage to find the cords to the light fixtures and hang on to rest now and then.

It couldn't seem to figure out that it should go down first to go through the door. Maisy and I retired to the other room thinking that a little quiet and an open door might be enough for it to find it's way out. But it didn't, so I had to head on to work leaving Maisy in charge just hoping the bird would stay in the kitchen while I was gone.

I returned home at 7:45 p.m. and cautiously made my way to the kitchen. I was a bit afraid of what I might find. I knew Maisy wouldn't harm the poor thing. After all, it wasn't a squirrel. I looked all around the room and in the corners of the counters. Nothing.

I got the ladder out and moved it around the room. And I was startled to spot the little bird atop the hutch less than two feet away from my face!

It was perched on the edge of a silk plant high up out of harm's way. And it wasn't moving! I thought the thing probably landed there and died from exhaustion. It was motionless, even when the camera flash went off.

So this is when I turned the lights off in the kitchen and went to the internet to look up pictures of sleeping hummingbirds. And I learned some very fascinating things.
  • Hummingbirds are only found in the Americas.
  • Hummingbirds have the fastest metabolism of any animal on earth.
  • An average size hummer will have about 940 feathers.
  • They are continuously hours away from starving to death, and are able to store just enough energy to survive overnight.
  • They typically eat two to three times their own body weight in nectar and insects every day.
  • They can reach speeds of 50 mph when in escape mode.
  • They are the only birds who can fly backwards.
  • When hummingbirds sleep they go into a state known as torpor where they can lower their metabolism by as much at 95%.
  • During this time their body temperature can lower by anywhere from 20-50 degrees.
  • Their heart rate ranges from 1200 beats per minute down to 50 beats per minute depending on activity.
  • Their breathing may actually stop briefly during sleep.
  • As they awaken, they vibrate their wing muscles and shiver, generating heat to warm their blood and allowing them to make it to their first meal.
  • It can take as long as an hour for the bird to come back into an active state, so a torpid hummer cannot respond to emergencies.
It is this last fact that I was counting on as I planned our little feathered friend's exit strategy.

I called on neighbor Peggy to come help as I needed to hand off stuff from the hutch until I could access the silk plant. I only had one shot at this and we had to get it right. The ladder was in position. The opposite French door was open to make for an easy exit once off the ladder. I slowly lifted the fake foliage and the little fella stayed put all the way down and then out the door!

I placed him on the patio table and he stayed asleep. Amazing! I have the camera only about a foot from his pretty green head.

At this point, I am rattling off the fact that these little birds are quite vulnerable in this state and Peggy inquires about neighborhood cats. Hmmm. Gotta move him now.

My hand shakier than before, I lifted the branch again and moved it to the top shelf of a rusting etegere in the corner of the deck. And just as I get it in a secure position, he starts to rustle his wings. But he doesn't fly away, so we leave him.

I went back later to check on his status and did not find him on the branch anymore. So I removed it to put it back in the house. But he was still there, this time resting on the shelf itself. Returning the foliage to the shelf for cover, I took a few last pictures.

After consulting Stokes, Peterson, and the Audubon Society, I've concluded that my visitor is a juvenile male ruby-throated hummingbird. You can see the first of his brilliant red feathers starting to appear on his throat.

So the answer to "How do you remove a hummingbird from your house?" is "You wait until he goes to sleep."

I hope going all afternoon without nourishment won't adversely affect him. This probably sent him into torpor earlier than usual as a means of protection. We'll see if he has recovered sufficiently in the morning to be on his merry way. I surely hope so.

I suppose, as Peggy suggested, it was the allure of the red checked cloth on the kitchen table that first attracted the hungry little bird to venture through the open door. Once inside, the dog running back into the house may have sent it to the ceiling where it got stuck. Whatever it was, it was a rare privilege to see one of God's most amazing creatures up close for such an extended period of time.


Julia Wood said...

Fascinating! I would have freaked out and not taken the time to research on the Internet. Good for you!

Larkspur Lane Designs said...

That is really an amazing story! I think there is something almost magical about hummingbirds. I was at our cottage at Lake Erie, recently, sitting on the front porch, when I noticed, what I thought, was a huge bug from across the yard. My son's bright red swim trunks were hanging on the railing next to me, so I sat there motionless, until, what was actually a hummingbird came to investigate them.

Judy Cloe said...

What a great story. I learned a lot about hummingbirds I never knew. You did a good job. The Internet is a wonderful research tool. Thanks so much for sharing and taking the outstanding photos.

Sally Brus said...

What a great story and pictures. However, instead of sleeping, I think the litle one was in shock. Good thinking to get him out of the house. Thanks to Maisey too.

Meredith said...

So cool! I love hummingbirds; we have two feeders in our backyard. I can't believe he went to sleep; how amazing! Glad you were able to rescue him! And thanks for the facts...never knew about some of that stuff! Makes these tiny birds seem even more amazing!

Heather said...

Wow - that was sure easier than the bat removal we attempted :) I can't wait to show this to the kids in the morning.

Talya Elizabeth Ervin - Williams said...

Thanks for a great story! I am out here in Bisbee, Arizona where there are about 14 different types of hummers and I had an in house visitor for close to 3 hours today. I was bringing the feeder in to change the nectar and he followed me in! And, then into the kitchen he came but couldn't figure out how to come down to go out the door,just like your tiny visitor. I hung a bunch of red stuff around the kitchen door and hung a feeder in the doorway. He wasn't going for it. After a few hours he was getting tuckered out resting on the Casablanca fan and I went and put on a red shirt and sat at the kitchen table. He buzzed around, chirruping less now and finally landed on my arm. I got up and walked outside. It took him 10 seconds and off he flew. Such trust from one so small! I'll change the feeders at night from now on! Massey earned an A+ !