In the spring and summer, many people like to put hanging baskets of flowers near their doors, windows, and decks. The colourful bouquets make a perfect decoration–well, almost perfect. Depending on where you hang them, the baskets can either be an enhancement or a death trap for hummingbirds.
Once when I went to visit my neighbour across the street, I stood in the covered entrance of her house and rang the doorbell. She wasn’t home, but while I waited, I noticed a hummingbird that had been attracted by the pink flowers in the basket hung in this covered area. The bird kept trying to fly away through the skylight that was the roof of the entrance. It didn’t realize there was a pane of glass between it and the sky. It tried again and again and again, gradually becoming exhausted by its efforts in the heat.
I looked around for a way to help it, but the ceiling of the entrance was out of my reach. I used a broom that was leaning by the door, to reach up and gently try to steer the hummingbird away from the glass. Not so easy. The bird tried even harder to get away, and escape depended on getting up into the sky. At last I managed to swish it downwards and it flew out into the open. But not far! It landed on the wire cage that surrounded a small tree about twenty feet away. The little hummingbird grabbed hold of the wire cage and then, with its feet gripping the wire tightly, its body fell downward so it was hanging upside down.
The tiny hummingbird looked totally exhausted. It hung on in a death grip, but could not right itself. I lifted it off the wire. Holding my hand close in front of me, I cradled the hummingbird and folded the bottom of my T-shirt over my hand to make a dark room for the bird. I took it over to my house and wondered what to do.
At first the bird couldn’t even sit up. I let it lie on its side. I wondered if it needed some food or water to help get its strength back so I stood by my hummingbird feeder and put a dab of sugar water on my finger. The bird’s eyes were closed and it didn’t look good. Its heart was pounding but that was about the only thing moving. I didn’t want to drown the bird by forcing it to drink, but I put the drop on the end of its beak. Nothing. It didn’t even try to lick it.
I stood very still by the hummingbird feeder. Other hummingbirds came and went and one of them let out a little chirp. My hummingbird opened his eye and he made a feeble effort to call back to the other bird.
Aha! I thought. When the other bird chirped, my bird tried to open his mouth. I put another drop of sugar water on my finger and waited for the next chirp from his friends. As soon as he opened his mouth to try to answer, I put the drop on the end of his beak. This time his long skinny tongue came out and tasted the liquid.
I managed to get the bird to sit, still in the fold of my T-shirt. Then every time the other birds chirped I had a drop of sugar water ready for my patient. After about ten minutes of this revival technique, the hummingbird leapt out of my hand to follow his friends.
It should have been a happy story, but one thing I found very disappointing was that when my neighbour came home and I told her about it, she didn’t even bother to move the hanging basket that was luring the birds into that trap. I thought about all the modern homes that have a skylight in the entrance and how people almost always hang a basket of flowers there. Why don’t they care more about what they’re doing?