How To Help A Trapped Hummingbird

This isn’t a funny or entertaining post. You can skip past it unless you’re trying to help a hummingbird right now. It just happened to me recently and I had a hard time finding all the necessary information, concisely phrased and collected in a single place.

Here’s what to try, in order:

  1. Just make sure the bird has as many open exits as possible, and leave it alone for a few minutes. Leave the room. Don’t stand by the trapped space, or near any of the exits. If you can, cover all light sources but the exits. Shut or throw a blanket over the skylight if it’s accessible, close all of your blinds, on windows that don’t open and/or you don’t want the bird to head toward. It will likely leave in a few minutes.
  2. If there’s no place in the trapped space for the bird to perch, bend a thin wire hanger – not the painted kind, and not the fortified kind; those are too thick – or fan out the individual straws on a broom. Hold it near the bird (don’t chase it around), and hold as still as you can. If the bird perches, you can slowly and carefully move the broom or hangar toward the exit.
  3. If there is a place for the bird to perch in the trapped space, it may stay there for a while, resting and trying to escape over and over again. If you have a hummingbird feeder, hang it between the trapped space and the exit. Hummingbirds are attracted to red things most of all; you can try placing a few red objects in its sight line to ‘lead’ it to the feeder or, if you don’t have a feeder, just lead it outside.
  4. If none of this works, the bird will exhaust itself soon. You’ll have to take it out by hand. Don’t use nets or tools or anything – hummingbirds are extremely fragile, and they cannot hurt you – just be sure to use a very, very soft and careful grip. Don’t worry about it struggling away, they’re far weaker than you think. Barely touch the bird. Only hold it by the sides, gently pinning the wings to the body. If you grab it front to back, you may accidentally compress the chest, preventing it from breathing. As soon as you get outside, carry it with an open, cupped palm. Give it a minute to recover. It may take off on its own.
  5. If the bird isn’t recovering and you have a hummingbird feeder, very gently grasp its upper body by the sides, stabilizing its head, and very gently guide its beak into the feeder holes. You’ll know if the beak is going deep enough because the tip will be wet when you pull it out. Only leave it in there for a second or two, then remove the beak and give it a few seconds to recover. After the first dip or two, it should recover enough to drink on its own when you slip the beak into the feeder. You’ll see it – the neck feathers ruffle up a bit and the head moves. After repeating this process a few times, hold the bird with an open, cupped palm again. Give it a minute or two for the food to kick in, and it should recover and fly off.
  6. If none of that works, line a small box with soft cloth — no terrycloth or anything with loops or tangles to catch the bird’s feet or feathers. Remember to punch some airholes, cover the box, and call either a vet or the local Audobon society, if you have one.

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