Picture of How to Rescue a Hummingbird
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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".
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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
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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.)

Step 4: Feeding Technique

Picture of Feeding Technique
I usually put the bird on my belly (It helps to be portly) or hold it in one hand.
Get a few drops of bird food in an eye dropper.
I get the dropper opening very close to the end of the beak and see if he will eat without being prompted.

Do not squeeze the dropper and get sticky nectar on the bird.

I have discovered the bird "feeding prompt" is to gently touch the back of the head and neck with a finger. (The back of his head and neck, not yours.)
The bird immediately starts feeding. I wonder if the parent birds do this to speed up feeding.

Its tongue darts out about 3/4" several times per second (that's several Hz for you fellow nerds) lapping up the nectar inside the dropper.

Step 5: Adding protein to the sugar food

Picture of Adding protein to the sugar food
When we raised a tiny baby hummingbird a few years ago, we deduced that a bird cannot grow on sugar alone. If that was all they ate, they would end up looking like rock candy crystals instead of muscle-bound athletic birds.

We figured the parents catch bugs and feed the babies some protein upon which to grow. So we shook bugs out of flowers into the nectar bowl and ground them up. (please, no harsh comments from the bug's rights activists). It helps to not use pesticide in your garden.

This time since I brought the bird home at breakfast time and we were having scrambled eggs, I took some egg yoke and mixed it into the nectar. (Egg white just seemed too cannibalistic)

Step 6: Getting a little fresh air

Picture of Getting a little fresh air
Wallace sunning himself while standing on a perch that was too big to grip.

He is taking a breather between small meals.

I once over fed our first baby humming bird...
She kept responding to the feeding prompt (my finger petting the back of her head) so I kept feeding her as she sat on my belly and we watched TV. I though, hmmm where does she put all that food?

Then to my shock I saw a red bulge like a full size red grape on her throat under her chin.

I think it is her crop (some say gizzard) that can be used for temporary food storage. I stopped feeding her and she digested that stored food over night. But be careful you don't over or under feed your guests.

Step 7: Getting some excercise and feeling better

Picture of Getting some excercise and feeling better
Wallace tries out his wings and shows signs of friskiness.

I had to hold the cage so Wallace would not fly away with the whole thing. Maybe I'm exaggerating a bit but he was looking much healthier after a few good meals.

Step 8: Something about the milk carton catches my eye

Picture of Something about the milk carton catches my eye
While feeding Wallace his 7th little breakfast including Instant Nectar (like Tang for hummingbirds) with ground up egg yolk mixed in it. I noticed something on my milk carton.

Step 9: Wallace notices it too

Picture of Wallace notices it too
He said something like "Hey! I should be getting home soon."

Actually, he started flying fairly well around the house like he was capable of upward flight and motivated to resume independent bird life.

So we start making preparations for a return to the wild.

I want to give him a lift back to where I found him (a mile away but in the next county).
I hear these guys are very territorial, so my local hummingbirds may not adopt him into the clan. Additionally, I think he may be young and still in need of bird parent training on flight and feeding let alone having that special talk about the birds and the bees....

Step 10: The Travel Box

Picture of The Travel Box
After putting Wallace in a small cardboard box with his sock nest and twig...

I packed him on my bike and rode back to the tree near the spot where I found him in the road.

Here is his travel box as I took him out for return to the wild.

Step 11: One for the Road

Picture of One for the Road
I got him out and he was anxious to get going but he decided he had time for one final hand-fed meal before flying off to resume normal bird life.

When I let him go, He flew straight up into the tree overhead and sat for a few seconds. By the time I had my camera ready he had already gone.

I imagine he will tell the others about his experience but maybe he'll exaggerate a little so it sounds more like an alien abduction, instead of an all expense paid trip to a bed and breakfast.

But, you know how birds are.

Still, it's a very satisfying thing to do, so I recommend the effort.

Good luck! and Happy Earthday!

Step 12: Prior experience

Picture of Prior experience
Our first baby hummingbird rescue (10 years ago) ended successfully after a week with an amazing reunion.

The week started as I was mowing the lawn and found a smaller baby in the grass, not able to fly. I knew the myths, "If you touch it the mom won't take it back", etc.

But as night was falling I had to do something. We took it in and hand fed it for a week 10-15 times/day. We named her Heidi (since she was "hiding" in the lawn).
She liked to sit on my shoulder pretending she was a parrot and I was her pirate/mobile perch.
I let her practice flying in the house like an insect fluttering up the wall and slowly back down, coming to rest in the the palm of my hand. This practice helped her build strength and endurance.

On the 6th or 7th day we brought her cage outside for some evening fresh air and 30 seconds later her mom zooms down from the redwood tree and starts chittering excitedly at us. Something about "You've been giving her too much sugar and you're going to rot her beak off." We reached into the cage, picked Heidi up and put her on the top (outside) of the cage. Within 15 seconds, the mom was catching gnats (bugs) from a convenient nearby swarm and feeding them to Heidi. Over the next hour Heidi was escorted by her mom, in a series of small flights, back up to the nest in the redwood.

This debunks the "Momma bird won't take back babies that have been touched by people" myth.

The nest was high up in the redwood. It was high enough for about a 30 degree glide path over the house and down to the front lawn where I found Heidi that first day.
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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.

thank you for the advice, but one comment. When you, or anyone makes a reference to "the right water/sugar ratio", PLEASE tell us what is is, or point us to a specific location to fing it. :-)

"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.
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!
TreyO humlvr10 days ago

so, can you tell us EXACTLY what you mean when referring to nectar? Something I can buy at the store? Nearly all of the store nectar I've seen contains red dye.

As for my regular hummingbird feeders for the many wild birds, is it OK to use my own sugar water? Or, again, should I be using something else?

Woodenbikes (author)  humlvr1 year ago
Thanks for the good rescue tips!
cymonian6 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 :(
maleahmac cymonian11 months ago

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

TreyO maleahmac10 days ago

Trey @ maleahmac

Please, don't be so mean! Why not commiserate and offer a suggestion on how to fix the expressed problem rather than simply condemning cymonian and telling us about your sick stomach. I'm pretty certain the skylight wasn't installed with the goal of trapping and killing birds! For example you could have said "How awful it must be for you to see/find the dead hummingbirds like that! It would tear me up! Have you thought of putting a lightweight screen over the opening, or having the skylight refitted so that it is hinged and can be opened to release the little guys?"

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. 
deemchl2 months ago
I found a humming bird in a tub of water I was dipping out of to water flowered. I thought it was dead but it was still clinging to life, I know not how. I brought her in the house and have dried her off and she has slow begun to revive . She is eating fairly well from an eye dropper. I am following your instructions, so far so good. So happy to have found your story. This one does not appear to be a baby. Do they need to be fed some at night too? Or just make her a nest and let her be?
Woodenbikes (author)  deemchl2 months ago
It sounds like you are doing a good job and the bird is doing its part too. Since it seems like an adult, it may have energy storage to make it through the night. But there are a couple of things you can try.
Maybe it would feed itself from a hummingbird feeder in the cage/room.
But if it can do that, maybe it's set to be released.
The baby I revived was too weak to beat itself up on the cage, (so it stayed a weak until the momma took it back). The adult I revived got frisky fast and was rearing to get out after two mellow hours of rehab.

I think they store food in a throat bulge. So you could feed it in the evening and let it rest through the night if it has a restful way to stay warm (e.g. sock nest). Petting the back of the head made the baby feed more. I don't know if that works on adults. Definitely focus on keeping the feathers clean so they act as insulation. Hopefully the bird will clean its own feathers from the rain barrel water.

Release as soon as it looks safe to do so. (Maybe before dusk today if the bird is vigorous. or sometime tomorrow)
Good luck!

I did have a small cage that I mounted a hummingbird feeder to. I also put in a sock nest which she is on . I also put small branches that would fit her feet to perch. She is very lethargic and sits with her eyes closed. She might have been hurt before landing in the water. . I so appreciate the help though. Your story was very helpful. I will give it my best effort but right now I am a bit worried for her.
Phoenix Flare10 months ago
Cute! Sadly, in New Zealand, there are no hummingbirds!!! ( Where I live)
PZ45610 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)  PZ45610 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 :)
maleahmac11 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.
Woodenbikes (author) 1 year ago
This 3 minute video reminds me of our first Hummingbird rescue.  http://www.wimp.com/babyhummingbird/

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.
Sisa2 years 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 :_
bajablue3 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.
mansfika5 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)  mansfika5 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!
daphdaph5 years ago
Thank you so much for this instructable. I found a young hummingbird yesterday. I tried leaving it and watching with binoculars....no 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.
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