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July 02, 2010

Hummingbird Tales: We've got a bird down!

I arrived home from work yesterday afternoon and grabbed my camera, ready to see how the hummingbird chicks had fared since I last peeked into their nest.

Making my way through the garage, I opened the side door, which is about three feet away from the birds, and grabbed the six-foot stepladder. As I was about to step outside, I glanced down and saw something on the concrete, next to the doorway -- a tiny clump of frizzy fur and a beak.

What the hell?

It was one of the hummingbird chicks, feebly moving around, lifting its head, eyes still shut. I quickly climbed up the ladder and peered into the nest: Empty! Not a trace of the other chick.

I gathered up a couple of leaves from the trumpet vine and crouched down, trying to roll the chick onto one leaf without touching it with my hands (wanting to avoid having the mother reject the offspring 'cause it smelled of human).

Straining to reach the nest without dropping the chick, I placed it back into the nest, the concerned mother buzzing angrily overhead, then began looking around, trying to figure out what had happened.

There were bits of the nest -- chunks, really -- laying on the ground, but they seemed to have come off of the top lip; the bottom portion seemed intact. I carefully walked the area, looking for the missing chick, which was more difficult than you might think, as the trumpet vine dropped little husks that looked a lot like the baby birds, at least at a glance.

The search was futile; not a trace remained of the missing bird. I backed off and a few minutes later the mother had returned to the nest, sitting atop her remaining offspring.

When I checked on the nest this morning, the chick was laying in the nest, beak pointed up into the air, awaiting the return of it's mom with breakfast.

I'd initially thought that one of the neighborhood cats was responsible, perhaps making a leap for the nest and knocking it about enough to dislodge its occupants, but wouldn't that have caused more damage to the nest?

It's a mystery.

Posted by Mike Lief at July 2, 2010 07:39 AM


I remember growing up we had a nest and one of the chicks fell out. Our vet (we've been seeing him for more years than any MD in the family) said it was a miracle any chick survived to bird-dom. They aren't noted for their intelligence.

Posted by: andrewdb at July 3, 2010 09:35 AM