What to Do

 

What to Do If You Find a Hummingbird

Hummingbirds are the smallest bird species found in the world. They can hover, fly backwards and at times upside-down! Their wings beat up to seventy-eight times per second. They feed off of flowers that contain nectar to support their acrobatics and rapid metabolism. 

In addition they eat insects to fulfill their need for protein.   Hummingbirds must eat often and will die within 4 hours of no food source. 

Injured or orphaned hummingbirds require a very specialized diet. Feeding them solely sugar water or "nectar" is like feeding children soda pop - No nutritional value whatsoever!  

IMPORTANT:   Do NOT feed hummingbirds sugar water or "nectar" for more than 24 hours.   It will harm the bird. Babies fed sugar water or "nectar" may develop deformities or die.  

How to care for a hummingbird until getting it to a rehabilitator:

 Adults:

 Have a beak longer than three-quarters of an inch and may have some bright color on the head or neck.  They have visible tail feathers (unless caught by a cat). 

If the birds eyes are closed and/or the feathers are puffed and the bird looks like a "cotton ball," you will need to warm the bird before feeding. 

* Hold the bird in the palm of your hand with your thumb covering the tail and wings so the bird can't fly.

* Hold the bird about one inch away from a light bulb (a gooseneck lamp works well) until eyes are open and feathers are sleek on the body (usually about 3-5 minutes).

*  If the bird starts to open its' mouth to breathe, it is too hot.  Be careful do not OVERHEAT!

How to feed: 

* Prepare a sugar water solution by mixing 1 tsp. of sugar (no honey or artificial sweeteners) with 4 tsp. of water.

* With an eyedropper or syringe gently guide the birds beak into the tip of the dropper or syringe.  Do not squeeze the dropper you may drown the bird.  If the bird is eating his tongue can be seen moving and bubbles will be seen in the liquid.   If the bird gasps, or bubbles are seen at the side of the mouth, STOP, let the bird calm down and try again 

* Offer sugar water every thirty minutes until help can be reached. 

 

Newborn Hummingbirds (0-9 days) :

Baby hummingbirds are born the size of a plump raisin. They have no downy feathers. They have yellow straw-like strands down the middle of their back. If they are very young their short beak is yellow progressing to black as they get older. Their eyes are closed and their bodies are black.

 They cannot regulate their body heat and depend on mom to keep them warm. 

If you find a newborn hummingbird, do not attempt to feed it.   Get Help immediately! 

* Try to keep the baby in the nest if possible. 

* If not, line a plastic margarine cup with tissue and keep the baby warm (this is essential) by placing it under a gooseneck lamp about 5 inches away from the bulb. 

* Do not overheat it.  If it starts open-mouth breathing or its neck is outstretched, it is too hot. Overheating can kill it.

 * Keep them warmed to an outside temperature -- between 85 -- 90 degrees. 

 

Nestling Hummingbirds (10-15 days):

Baby hummingbirds begin developing "pin" feathers (they look like porcupine quills) at approximately 10 days of age. Normally you see two tiny beaks sticking up above the nest. 

Mom will stop sitting on her babies at this age. They can now maintain their own body temperature. 

Many people think that the mother has abandoned her babies when she no longer sits on them.  If you have doubts about abandonment , Please watch the nest continuously for one hour for the return of the mother. She will fly in to feed them, which takes only 3-5 seconds, 4-6 times an hour. 

Baby hummingbirds use silence in the nest as a defense against predators. If the babies are vocalizing by constantly "peeping" for more than 10 minutes, they are in trouble (starving) and need help immediately. Silent babies are usually healthy babies! 

* If they have fallen out of the nest, gently pick them up, check to be sure there are no injuries and carefully place them back in the nest. (Always check the nest first for ants or other insects that may be attacking them). Once again watch for moms return. 

* If they have to be rescued and readily open their mouth, CAREFULLY drop three drops of sugar water (see adult recipe) into their mouth. 

* Offer sugar water every 30 minutes until help can be obtained. 

* Important:  Do NOT feed hummingbirds sugar water or "nectar" for more than 24 hours.  It will harm the bird. 

 

Pre-fledglings (16- 21 days):

Pre-fledglings are fully feathered, have very short tail feathers and a beak less than 1/2 inch long. They are most often found on the ground.  Once again, if you know where the nest is, please put them back and watch for mom's return. 

* If they need to be rescued and open their mouth readily, Carefully drop 5 drops of sugar water into their mouth. 

* Feed every 30 minutes until help can be obtained. 

* Important:  Do NOT feed hummingbirds sugar water or "nectar" for more than 24 hours.  It will harm the bird. 

 

This information is provided courtesy of Leslie Van Epps and Project Wildlife of San Diego, California.

 

 
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