My ‘up close and personal’ day with an Allen’s hummingbird

I can’t help but wonder what might have occurred had I not almost two years ago read an intriguing book, “Fastest Things on Wings: Rescuing Hummingbirds in Hollywood,” by Terry Masear.

Prior to reading this book I would have been content to know the little beauties by observation only, and not concerned with detail.  As an example, I didn’t know that they’re susceptible to bacteria. Rule #1: Keep the feeders clean. Rule #2: In SoCal heat the feeders need to be cleaned as often as every other day and Rule #3: Don’t attract the birds to the feeders and then let them go dry.

I purchased some of the tiniest little brushes I could find for cleaning, made my sugar-water and set up a couple of feeding stations. And then…

Bees. Thousands of them by the time I took the feeders down. So although I’d learned so much about attracting hummingbirds and giving them optimum conditions, my efforts failed.

That was two years ago, and recently I tried again.

Friday was a busy day! I had afternoon plans to take one granddaughter to swim practice and the other needed to prepare for softball, but one thing I’ve learned is that it’s better not to attract wildlife to your backyard if you’re not prepared to engage, convenient or not.

Just before noon I decided to move a couple of plants very near one of the feeders and I found Lucy (in the Sky With Diamonds), wedged between some rocks. I took my little trowel and gently scooped her up, and although not flying, she was alert, so I held her up to the feeder and she took some sugar-water.

After reading Terry Masear’s fabulous book I knew there was much more to caring for this little bird than sugar-water.

Taking the lead from what I’d previously learned I quickly looked for a local wildlife rehabilitator and I was delighted that Terry’s phone number was listed along with some general guidelines.

She very graciously walked me through the first steps in evaluating “what to do next” and after sending her photos and a video of Lucy trying to fly, by late afternoon Papa took over the girls’ preparation and I transported the little beauty to one of Terry’s contacts about an hour from our home.

There is more to the care and protection of hummingbirds than I can share in a brief post, but it is worth noting that hummingbirds are included in the list of Migratory Birds and protected under the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations.

And as such, the expected protocol is to call a “Hummingbird Rescue” or wildlife rehabilitation facility to take the lead on care. I was very surprised at how many local options were listed.

Terry Masear’s book is a fantastic story, highlighting her own almost impossible shift from college professor to hummingbird rehabilitator, complete with stories from hummingbird rescues all over the Los Angeles area. It is a very entertaining book, as well as offering excellent instruction. An Audubon overview of the book can be found HERE.

In some Native American traditions the hummingbird totem is a symbol of peace, love and happiness. I took care of her, but what a gift she gave to me!








40 thoughts on “My ‘up close and personal’ day with an Allen’s hummingbird

    1. I don’t think she was too injured, at least not externally! The rehabilitator told me she may have run into something (what, I can’t imagine) and simply been disoriented. I am holding to the idea that she’s going to be fine! I don’t know that I’d be a good animal rescue “expert” as I don’t think I’d handle disappointing outcomes very well!

  1. Wasn’t Lucy lucky to be found by you! And how wonderful that you drove her to a rehab specialist. Hope she recovers and rediscovers her flying skills.

    I love watching Hummingbirds. So precious.

    1. I keep wondering if she found me or I found her, Nancy. Mutuality, I think. I felt that caring for her had layers of meaning for me. I was really caught up in the wonder and the moment! 🙂

  2. Many thoughts came to mind as I was readers … all good … but the most recurring thought was, “This is so Debra.” 🙂 Well done, and way to put your resources to work.

    BTW – We only have only hummingbird species here … and we used to have a feeder like yours!

    1. Thank you, Frank! I really did have a fascinating day. I think somehow this was a little “gift” I was needing. We don’t have have many truly colorful birds in our vicinities because they camouflage with our all-taupe landscape! LOL! I think that’s partially why having so many hummingbirds is so intriguing. They aren’t like anything else! Thank you for stopping by, Frank. I hope your “time off” has been nourishing!

      1. Our h-birds are Ruby Red Throat, Attractive little aviaries. Search a pic. They are very territorial – only one at a time at the feeder. Therefore they spend a lot of energy pushing away others instead of drinking. Females are rule the place.

        Meanwhile, I hope to return to posting next week.

  3. What a wonderful find Debra. It’s great when you can give something back to the wildlife that gives us so much pleasure. I hope your little friend makes a full recovery 🙂

    1. Thank you, Martin. I knew that many of my friends would understand my excitement. I am always overjoyed when in my very urban setting I have a special encounter with a little creature. I’ve had quite a few lately that have all left me surprised and quite fortunate!

    1. Thank you, Ray. It was such a nice way to end a busy week. I was struck by how many times I’ve thought the hummingbirds so pretty and wanted to be closer to them. Then, with all the handling that I did of her, including feeding her with an eye dropper, it wasn’t natural and I felt anxious about it. It was an interesting experience all the way around! 🙂

  4. Thank you for the beautiful post, Debra. Hope Lucy is doing well. Appreciate you providing the link. 🙂 Have a wonderful Sunday.

    1. Thank you, Amy. I hope she’s doing well, too. The dear woman who took her had so many birds to care for, including an owl with a broken wing, so I decided I wouldn’t followup with her. I have a feeling she’ll be fine in time. 🙂

  5. About 2 or 3 years ago I would get hummingbirds visiting my geraniums. The following year I invested in a feeder and I haven’t seen any since. Last year there weren’t many in my area and it was suggested that something happened in migration but I haven’t seen any this year either. Such sweet little things although I understand they can be territorial.

    1. I just don’t know that much about hummingbird migratory patterns, Kate, but I’m interested in learning more. I wonder if they, too, are affected by climate change. It wouldn’t surprise me! In my neighborhood it’s unusual when we see some of the vibrant colored birds you see all the time. I’m glad we have these little hummingbirds to brighten up the activity at the feeders. 🙂

  6. I am so glad you were able to help her and find a good place for her to recuperate! Aren’t they pretty little creatures. Hope the feeder attracts lots more healthy ones for you to watch and enjoy!

    1. Thank you, Cathy. We are seeing dozens of hummingbirds each day and they take a sip and zip on to something else! I’m not sure what happened to our little pretty. But I hope she’s doing well now! 🙂

    1. Thank you, dear Colleen. I keep thinking of the prompting I had to move those pots! That was not on my agenda, but I think I must have subconsciously heard her call me. 🙂 It was a delight to intervene on her behalf. I have two friends very heavily invested in animal rescue, and my respect for what they do increased exponentially as I readjusted my schedule. This was just one day and one little bird and i was exhausted! LOL!

  7. Oh, Debra, upon reading this post, my heart if fluttering almost as fast as a hummingbird’s wings. Lucy’s instinct took her to a safe haven and a caring soul. Your quick triage and consultation makes you the Clara Barton of the bird world. Thank you, dear friend, for the loving heart and steady hand that saved this little creature.

    I need to check out Terry Masear’s book. My garden club usually reads a book and discusses it early in the new year. This might be a good suggestion. Off I go to click on your link.

    Thank you, Debra. You are amazing.

  8. Gail Huskins

    Indeed, this exemplifies your big heartedness and activism. One doesn’t always beget the other, but in you they certainly do! Thank you for saving little Lucy, Debra!

  9. What a beautiful and unusual bird Debra, I do hope she is doing well. I have to admit that I started reading your post and had to stop because I was so moved by it. I came back a bit later but it is a very profound story.

  10. Dear Debra, I so like what Penny said about you being the Clara Barton of the hummingbird world! It seems to me that you are the Clare Barton in other worlds too as you share your life and make all of us much more aware of flora and fauna and climate change and the ravages of time.

    I so hope Lucy recuperated and is out and about bring delight and beauty to the world. Peace.

  11. You are a hummer hero, in my mind Debra. I have a ‘thing’ for hummingbirds. When we lived in the SF bay area, we got droves of them from March through November. I loved them, and they loved me back, hovering at times right in front of me, looking me straight in the eyes (it seemed). How I love that sound as they fly near by. Now in NE we only get hummers from May until September, but we dutifully put the feeder out my our window and watch the sweet fairies sip their full. And we re-fill often. Fortunately I haven’t seen any hurt hummers – but if I do, I know what do to now, thanks to you.

    1. We are two of a kind in loving those sweet little birds! I like that. I wouldn’t have had any idea of calling an “expert,” or even that there ARE people who rescue such a delicate little bird, if not for that amazing book. I really do recommend it. I think you’d really appreciate the lengths some people have gone to in order to protect them. Some are quite humorous! 🙂

      1. I’ve been thinking of you this week as I’ve watched the hummers watch ME from our bedroom window. The feeder is just about 3 feet away. At first they’d fly away if my face was stuck to the window. Now they sit, unfluttering, on top of the feeder surveying me and “their territory.” It’s hilarious and sweet.

  12. Debra, like you, I have a special place in my heart for hummingbirds. They’re amazing little gems. I’m glad you found Lucy and were able to rescue her quickly, and good thinking going to the experts for advice. I’ve never seen an Allen up close. What a gorgeous photo! showing off his stunning colors. We get Anna’s at our feeders year round, though we see more of them during the warmer months, and of course the spring garden has a lot more nectar on offer. They are special visitors indeed.

    This is probably what they mean when describing a “natural high.” Their is nothing quite like it.

  13. This was a sweet and touching story of your fragile, young Lucy. She looks quite content resting on your finger, Debra. I love the idea of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” brightening all your reader’s hearts and days.
    I’m so glad you mentioned the sugar water needing changed. My Mom told me when I was in kindergarten the water can turn to a bad “poison” filled with bacteria. I am emphasizing this, since I had a friend who added new liquid to the old! This just keeps the bacteria growing.
    My brother takes baby animals (after he waits and observes until he determines the parents are dead or lost their way from their young) to nearby nature center.
    He has also taken hurt ones to a local nature center, where if they don’t revive, they are fed to a hawk, eagle or snake. At least there is a purpose to their dying, although sad.

  14. Hummingbirds are such lovely creatures. They are fun to watch, but also very aggressive towards their own kind. I had no idea how much one has to think about when feeding hummingbirds. Your story is very touching. Hopefully Lucy will do all right in the end.

  15. I love hummingbirds. I have a feeder on my balcony which is great entertainment for the cats. The cats don’t bother them and vice versa. I have discovered they prefer home made sugar water to any commercial variety. I only make one cup at a time so it doesn’t go sour in the heat. Thanks for the lovely story.

I always enjoy hearing from you!

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