Sweet hummers need a little sweet

Published 12:07 am Saturday, May 9, 2015

Did you know that as ruby throated hummingbirds wing their way across the Gulf of Mexico, they fly 30 miles per hour, probably arriving at their destination in about 20 hours? And these are non-stop flights. Amazing, is it not?

Hummingbirds have fascinated me for years. I love watching them hover over colorful feeders and certain blossoms, drawing up the essential nectar that helps keep them afloat. They need this food for refueling. That is why a couple of my friends got so upset when they found one of the confused little birds soaring high in their garage one day.

They tried everything they knew to steer that tiny bird out of the garage so it could find the nutrients it needed. They waved brooms at it, trying to shoo it out, but it just stopped to rest on a curtain rod, grasping it with its miniscule feet, then flew over to the garage door support. Next, they tried waving towels at it, but it still did not leave. One of them rushed inside the house, grabbed a yardstick, put honey on it and tried to lure it to dip low enough to find its way outside. Nothing worked.

This couple had to run an urgent errand, so they left for just a few minutes, worrying that without food the trapped creature would die. When they returned, they found it on the garage floor. Thinking their worst fear was confirmed, my friend asked her husband to pick it up and take it out. She could not bear doing that herself, but when he picked it up, the little body was still warm. He took it outside and put it in a hanging flower basket.

My friend rushed inside to mix a drop or so of honey in some water. She transferred some of the sweet mixture to an eye dropper. As soon as the dropper touched the hummer’s beak, it extended its long tongue and started drinking. To the couple’s delight, the bird’s eyes began to flutter. They then opened wide. In a flash, it was up and gone. My friend said she was so thrilled it was alive and well that she broke into tears.

They estimated it had been in the garage for about an hour and a half—an amazing time for it to be without food and live. It amazed me when I read that a hummer’s daily intake of sugar may amount to half its weight. That drop of honey must have gone a long way making up for some of the energy the bird expended flying around in the garage. They believe it found its way into the garage looking for insects, one of the things hummers exist upon. Perhaps it had captured an insect or two during its garage excursion.

When hummingbirds wing your way exploring colorful plants or sipping from feeders, pause a few minutes to watch. You will enjoy their beauty as well as their antics.