Thursday, May 3, 2007

There I was, holding this hummingbird

I was biking in to work this morning when an iridescent flash on the road caught my eye. Something small and shiny, a couple of feet from the curb. Then it moved, and I saw it was a hummingbird. I pulled over and laid my bike down. The hummingbird didn't move away, just sat quietly. Figuring that the roadway was a poor choice of habitat, I crouched down and scooped him up. He didn't look injured, but I'm not a vet. I guessed he was stunned, though I didn't know what he might have run into that would only stun and not break him.
That part of the street has a side-road that makes a small half-circle, leaving a treed boulevard. I considered leaving the bird on one of the stumps or in the grass, but when shown the enticing green leaves etc. he made no move to leave my hand. He shifted his feet and stuck his wings out - what small wings! - so I had some hope he wasn't broken.
His throat was a brilliant red with purplish lights, and his back and tail were leaf-green. Beak long and narrow, about half the length of his body, I think, with a glint of purple at the tip. Tiny soft down feathers on my palm, and scratchy legs. Eyes round and black, when he opened them. The little wings were the dullest part, like one long grey feather with white down underneath. They didn't seem enough to lift him, let alone hover.
Yeah, so, I have a bike and a small injured bird. Next step?
An older fellow, tall and with thick white hair, came along and told me that it was a rufous hummingbird, and that he hoped it wasn't the one that fed in his backyard. He seemed confident that it would recover, and told me about a Coopers hawk he'd seen fly into a window, lie like one dead for a half hour, then fly to a tree and sit there for six hours (probably wondering what the hell happened and vowing never to go there again). He suggested that I continue with my first idea, of walking to the Biology building on campus, where he promised they had a hummingbird feeder. He also offered me a handkerchief to cover my hand, but since I was guessing that the warmth of my hand was good for the bird, and I planned to wash my hands anyways (bird-lice, bird-poop, etc.) I didn't bother.
It takes much longer to walk that little last stretch to Ring Road than it does to bike it. At last I got my bike locked up and was able to walk without leaning. Lovely.
Biology has moved to a different building. Which one? How long would I like to wander the campus with a hummingbird? I considered going into the library and getting someone with a window cubicle to take charge of the bird, but he was holding up its head and looking around, and I didn't want to risk him taking off inside the building.
While I was asking a cyclist which building Biology had fled to, (her toddler, in a bike-trailer, was totally unimpressed by the hummingbird) the bird took off from my hand and flew a few yards, landing under a tree.
His second hop attracted the two groundskeepers working nearby, one of whom was a birder and had rescued birds before. Yay! He promised to keep an eye on the hummingbird, and told us a few birding anecdotes.

Hm. Google Images pic of rufous hummingbird doesn't look like the one I found. He looked a lot more like a ruby-throated hummingbird, because his back was all iridescent green.
But I am not a birder, so what do I know?
Hah! I'm pretty sure he was an Anna's hummingbird, which do reach the southern end of Vancouver Island.

My history with birds: I've rescued three birds while at work, but this was the first hummingbird. The others were small brown and grey sparrow-like things (have I mentioned I'm not a birder?).
One had stunned itself flying into a window on a miserable rainy day. I thought it was a small pile of sodden leaves until it moved (giving me that ick! feeling of discovering something alive where you didn't expect it). That's when I learned that one of the best things you can do for a stunned bird is to keep it warm, because birds have such a high body-temp they can't stand much chill. I carried that one around until it lifted up its head and sat up in my hand. Then we moved it into a box-lid padded with paper towels and took it over to Biology, where they put the box on a window-sill until the bird flew away.
Another had trapped itself by flying through the first set of the double doors in the library entrance, and was hopping disconsolately about. I tried to shoo it towards the door to the outside, but it hopped onto my hand instead. I carried it outside, but it took a considerable time to decide that it would fly away.
When a third bird somehow got inside Tech Services, and was fluttering about in a corner, I was reasonably confident that I'd be able to scoop it up without terrifying it into heart failure, and so it proved. That one was so calm in my hands that I think I stood by the trees outside (yes, I walked from the secret backrooms of the library, through the old card catalogue and the double doors, outside, around the corner of the building and over to the trees, while the bird sat there like a baby in a pram, surveying the landscape) for fifteen to twenty minutes before it decided that it would have to use its own wings if it wanted to get any further.

I have no idea why this happens to me. I'm not a birder, and I've always had a cat. Birds should be alarmed. Mind you, I don't know how strong their sense of smell is.
When I was six years old, a crow flew into our house one evening, perched on my head, and flew out again, but that doesn't seem particularly related, any more than my once having owned a budgie because someone left it behind when she moved out.

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