Picture of How to Rescue a Hummingbird
humming bird 5.jpg
It's very satisfying to rescue a humming bird on the ground and nurse it back to health then release it. Here is how I've done it a couple of times.

I found this little guy sitting in the road as I biked by on a very cold early morning ride. Traffic was light so I circled back to pick him up before the next cars would come by.

I put him in my shirt pocket to warm him up. I looked at the nearby trees to see if I could tell from where he fell. He seemed cold, dazed, calm and lethargic. He made himself comfy in my shirt pocket. I put my hand over the pocket to further block the wind and warm him as I rode home.

My daughter named him "Wallace".
Remove these adsRemove these ads by Signing Up

Step 1: Read up on your new Guest

Picture of Read up on your new Guest
Wallace and I start reviewing the literature to see what we may be in for.

He is an Anna's hummingbird according to our book.

He liked looking at the picture and reminiscing about family etc.

The sock nest was roomy and comfy for him.

Step 2: Set up a cage for your little guest

Picture of Set up a cage for your little guest
A cage is needed to keep the little guest's whereabouts known and to keep the other pets out.

If you need to warm your bird use a thermostatically controlled heat pad under the cage, not a thermostatically controlled blinking light sleep deprivation device.

Step 3: Feeding

Picture of Feeding
humming bird 8.jpg
Two important things about feeding:
1) They need frequent feeding (I fed him every 15 minutes for a couple hours)
2) They need to be kept clean and dry during rehab. Feed carefully so you do not get your guest sticky or matted since he will not be insulated by matted feathers and could get too cold.

We fed him a commercial product called "Instant Nectar" for humming bird feeders.
You mix it up in COLD water so you do not super saturate the water with sugar that later would crystallize when the water cooled. (Mixing it in warm water could lead to rock candy in your humming bird feeders.)
1-40 of 110Next »
Phoenix Flare6 months ago
Cute! Sadly, in New Zealand, there are no hummingbirds!!! ( Where I live)
PZ4566 months ago

How toxic are ants to hummingbirds? I have a hanging feeder and somehow the ants have gotten inside and there is a large number of them floating on the top of the nectar (I use a clear nectar btw). I've cleaned them out before but they are back. My feeder has long thins spouts for the hummingbirds to use and is supposed to keep other critters out but doesn't seem to be working. Is there a name brand or type feeder I should be looking for? Thanks for you help. Great instructable. We are able to watch at least 1/2 dozen hummingbirds daily around our house. I can even stand within a foot of their feeder without scaring them off.

Woodenbikes (author)  PZ4566 months ago
I don't know how toxic ant are to hummingbirds (I being neither ant-thologist not ornithologist) But I hear hummingbirds don't eat from bug filled feeders. Maybe there is a way to hang the feeder with some sort of ant barrier. Any Ant-Barrier ideas out there fellow- instruct-able-fans? That's cool that they let you stand close to them. Ours are more timid, ~10 feet :)
cymonian5 years ago
i actually go through this process fairly often. i have a skylight above my porch, and hummingbirds often get caught in it and keep trying to fly up, and i have to get them with the ladder, unless they are already dead :(

its time to remove the skylight. you shouldn't let that keep happening. This makes me sick to my stomach

Instead of watching to rescue trapped birds, with a little creative thinking I'm sure you can find a solution  to keep them from getting into the skylight in the first place. 
maleahmac6 months ago

It may be a federal offense. However here in Arkansas even when you try to contact wildlife rehibilitators they do not answer nor call you back. So I think myself personally will take my chances. Though I know I may not succeed id rather try than turn my back. Why they make a law against it is even crueler than the fact that they do indeed turn their back. If anyone can help me please contact me at 501-414-0655 and it will be so appreciated.

scott357501 year ago
It is a federal offense to possess a hummingbird. I would not recommend this. Just saying.
humlvr1 year ago
I'm a hummingbird rehabilitator. Some of suggestions in your article are informative for your viewers; such as placing the nest under a well-lit and protective setting, warm up the nest underneath the cage, and feed bugs in addition to sugar water to the hummingbird, and hummers have poor sense of smell. I hope you don't mind that I make some corrections of how to care for them.
1. Socks are not the best material for the nest. The loops can catch their feet and cause damage when you try to take them out of their "nest". The much better alternative is to use an egg cartons or a small container, and line it with facial tissue. Change the tissue out at least daily.
2. They shouldn't only be on sugar water diet for more than 3 days. Regular strength sugar water causes gas in the crops for the nestlings which is unhealthy and can be dangerous. Please use nectar without red dye. By giving them just sugar water and red dye in the diet can result future deformity.
3. Over feeding can cause aspiration. It's safer to do more frequent feedings than long feedings.
4. Garden insects are good, just make sure there are no ants in the mix. Ants are toxic to hummers.
5. The sooner you return the nestlings to the original site the better. The hummingbird mothers do the most appropriate care with their chicks. However, some mothers don't hang around too many days, especially if she has established another nest.

It's really wonderful that you took time to rescue those hummers. The world is a better place with people like you!
Woodenbikes (author)  humlvr1 year ago
Thanks for the good rescue tips!
Woodenbikes (author) 1 year ago
This 3 minute video reminds me of our first Hummingbird rescue.

pegasus751 year ago
He is so cute! Good job taking care of him!!! U know the nature reserves say to put them back in their tree, but what if the bird falls out again! Just don't ever listen to them when they talk about rescuing birds.
Sisa1 year ago
The "myth" is correct. The parent won´t take anything back that is domesticated. A pet is not an animal. It lost its independence, thus its reason to live as an free wild beauty. We rescued many animals /birds too/ and even when I was a little girl I used to hold the birdies in my hand and mama fed them without any hesitation /one little fellow was apart from her missing at least week, and she still tended to it as a parent would/. And after its wing healed we return it in the forest, its mom waiting nearby (she had other 3 small kids).
But we never named them, they are too unique for unnecessities as names, still you made a wonderful job, I´ve never even held a hummingbird /in my country there are none/; kids and animals always liked me naturally, the way you give off calming waves, I guess, they are fond of you, too....
Isn´t it lovely to repay little back to Mother Nature.
I live in Washington state east of the cascades so its incredibly dry ( it gets about as much rain as death valley) but there are hummingbirds around here in the late spring. when i lived in California there where many hummers but our fat marmalade cat can jump six feet in the air and he would catch the little beauties :( now here there are lots of California quail and one flew into my bedroom window he didn't make it...... sniff :_
bajablue2 years ago
Good work! We've rescued a few hummers here in Idaho. They fly in our house and sometimes stay out of reach until they're too exhausted to fly out. You've given great advice!

This past May (in Baja), we rescued a fledgling Osprey and named her Isabeau.

Unfortunately, her wing was too damaged to resume flight again, but she continues to thrive on bait fish and will soon go to live at a Raptor Educational Center.
Ouch! I used to volunteer with a wildlife rehab center. Taking care of wild animals without the proper know-how is a gamble... And naming them is a no-no. Many animals will "fix" on you. And livestrong2431 is right. I would stay away from the mix and make your own. All you need is the right water - sugar ratio.
"naming them is a no-no"

oh, please, give it a rest
ditto. ;-)
As I said earlier, my family was lucky with the starling. Granted, she was just getting her first pin feathers so at least she first impressed on her parents instead of on us. She remembered us the next year but she didn't impress on us either...the clutch she raised pretty much proved that point. If she had impressed on us she wouldn't have accepted a mate of her own species.

We were lucky and we know it. This was one of those times that wildlife rehabbers wouldn't take the bird-we checked. They were usually overwhelmed as is was with the endangered critters and birds of prey. Other areas would be different and you always need to call and check with them before taking in a bird or other wild animal.
mansfika4 years ago
 Hi!  I'm so glad that I found this site.  I found a hummingbird today that seems to be in Wallace's situation.  I made the mistake of letting it get sticky in sugar water, and I'm wondering if anyone has suggestions for gently cleaning it.  I'm going to try to follow this process and see if I can rescue this little guy.  A quick reply would be great.  Thanks!
Woodenbikes (author)  mansfika4 years ago
Several commenters to this instructable mentioned turning wildlife over to the authorities.  That could make sense in this case for cleanup.
Alternatively, you could would let the bird bathe itself in a shallow pan with 1/2 inch depth of 100 degree F water (body temperature).  That might let the sugar disolve.  Then try to let the bird dry off out in the sun or maybe 2 feet away from a hair dryer on the low setting for a minute or two.  The important thing is not cooking or chilling the bird and helping it get clean and dry quickly so it can take over its own temperature management.

Good luck.
A warm, damp cloth would probably work better than a bath especially followed up by snuggling with a hot water bottle. You don't want the water to soak through the feathers if at all possible. The hot water bottle is good as the bird has the option of shifting slightly if it gets too warm.

Yes, I know this is over a year late but it might be able to help someone else.
Hypno_Hawk5 years ago
Although it is great that you managed to save this hummingbird, you should probably be aware that it is illegal to keep a wild bird in the US.  If you find a wild bird that you think is ill/injured you should ALWAYS call a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, ask their advice, and take it in if they say it needs care.  The majority of birds that people try to rescue die because either people don't know how to care for them or they were rescued when they did not need to be.  Many rescued birds are simply fledglings learning how to fly, and when they are taken away from their parents they will probably die. 

This hummingbird may not have needed rescue at all, certainly not for as long a time as you kept him.  Hummingbirds use so much energy that when they sleep, they must enter a period of semi-hibernation.  On "very cold" mornings it may take a little bit longer for them to wake up.  A good meal at most was what this hummer needed, and you could possibly have simply warmed her up in your hands and he would have been fine.  Although you saved him, this bird could have easily died ( I have seen it happen many times).  A wildlife rehabber is really your best bet if you think it really needs care.
Spoil sport.
I concur
Hypno_Hawk does have a valid point although most wildlife rehab people near where I grew up wouldn't take a bird unless it was a bird of prey. There was a local bird sanctuary that would occasionally take other birds but usually they wouldn't as they already had too many, but at least they'd give some instructions on care if they couldn't take the bird and a family friend who worked there showed us how to feed babies and teach them to fly once they fledged...which is good because we had a number of pet birds that sometimes needed hand feeding and/or flight training. We did have a number of legal pet birds of various types including babies that sometimes needed hand feeding or flight training.

My family helped a few birds over the years-mainly morning doves and a couple of starlings. Usually they needed little other than a safe place to recover for a few hours away from predators (crashed into window and then dropped into the pool below being rather common until film was put on the windows).

The one longer term wild resident-a starling-was found far from any potential nest and possibly had been played with a little by a cat beforehand. We didn't have any extra cages at the time and had to put her in with some zebra finches to keep her safe from our cats (NEVER mixed wild and pet birds if there is any alternative at all-they can make each other very sick-even a box is better in most cases). She had just started to get some pinfeathers and was quite a bit larger than the finches. Zeebs being prolific and prone to feeding any baby that demands it, kept her stomach full although she still had to be hand fed mashed up bugs as the zeebs are seed eaters, not omnivores like starlings. Flight training for her was difficult, she enjoyed just sitting on a perch and getting fed and clung to us as we tried to get her to fly back and forth. Eventually she did take off and apparently thrived-unlike most rescued birds returned to the wild...the next year she brought half a dozen newly fledged babies of her own to show off and wasn't above begging neighborhood kids for a bit of peanut butter. Shortly afterwards my family moved away so we don't know how long she lived but with her obviously thriving and finding a mate with which to raise at least one clutch we are pretty comfortable calling her a huge success. Even wildlife rehabbers often lose many of their baby birds and the number that can be successfully released is very small and even smaller still is the number who can survive their first year in the wild.
Maybe you missed the part where he said that he found him in the middle of the road. Sounds like a rescue was in order to me. You will be lucky to find one wildlife agent that would not welcome this persons help.
2nd TheBeege1...
berrueco4 years ago
my grandpa has 5 humming birds in his back yard and they have 4_6 feeders and they love it
AnimalGirl4 years ago
I have beautiful Baby hummin birds
virgdediaz4 years ago
Hi, I am in Guatemala and rescued a humming bird yesterday that landed on the tennis field while my daughter was playing. We named him Lalo, and immediately tried to find a nest with no luck. I searched everywhere online, and yours is the best! thanks a lot for the help! He passed the night, but I wonder how long should I feed him, a morning? or a couple of days before returning him to the wild? i am afraid if I put him back in the field predators will get him, and cannot find a nest :(

Woodenbikes (author)  virgdediaz4 years ago
Humming birds have very high metabolisms and a very small tummy (fuel tank). They need to eat frequently. If that bird was a little too young to be flying on its own it may need a couple of days of indoor flight practice, eating sugar water and ground up bugs mix. You just have to play it by ear, keep him clean, see if he can maintain flight for at least 10 seconds etc. toward the end of the instructable I tell about the younger hummingbird we rescued and her mom took her back after we put her cage near the tree. Good luck!
daphdaph4 years ago
Thank you so much for this instructable. I found a young hummingbird yesterday. I tried leaving it and watching with mother hummingbird came to feed the little one. I tried putting in the basket....not luck. I think something must of happened to the little guys mom. I even called the rehab...the nearest one is ove 2 hours away. What do you do at that point? I'm following your instrucable. The only thing is little Wallace (yes I named the hummingbird Wallace in honor of your Wallace) didn't like the scrambled egg yoke. So I boiled an egg and mashed the yoke to mush and mixed with sugar water. That was a winner. I hope she is able to fly away soon.
Woodenbikes (author)  daphdaph4 years ago
Thanks daphdaph for your inspiring note, It's great to see that sharing lessons learned can help one another. By my standards you have acted very prudently and compassionately. It would be great to see a note about what the rehab people had to say. Perhaps you could coax them into reviewing the instructable and offering additional advice for what to do when rehab is out of reach. I can't call them because I'm on the lamb for posting this outlaw advice in the first place :-) Best of luck (and there is luck involved) with the rest of your rescue. Keep up the good work.
When we rescued stray newborn kittens from under our house we mixed egg yoke into the milk we gave them. 5stars.
___5 years ago
mertsie5 years ago
I wanted to include this resource from PBS-the video is amazing and informative.  By the way...>5% of a hummingbirds diet is from protein consisting of insects.  You will see them catching small flies in the video.  They also mention that leaving your feeders out does NOT make hummingbirds stay longer than they should in an area.  They are driven by instinct, not food sources.  There is a great sequence where the birds are shown in torpor state (slowed heart rate and activity) at night and then coming out of it in the morning.  My kids loved seeing a bunch of the nearly 350 species.  Stick around until the end-they saved the best one for last!

Riann135 years ago
cute ^.^

I love watching birds when they do that; my gramma's cockatiel would do the rapid flapping while hanging upside down
robotguy45 years ago
"If that was all they ate, they would end up looking like rock candy crystals instead of muscle-bound athletic birds."

Like this?
1-40 of 110Next »