Photo: Sy Montgomery watches Brenda Sherburn feed orphaned hummingbirds.
Article/Photos by JoLynn Taylor ~ Wildcare News ~
Brenda is a full-service hummingbird care provider. She feeds baby hummingbirds every 20-30 minutes from dawn to dusk in a spare room she has dedicated to their needs. She has also built an aviary where fledglings can learn to fly and feed themselves, and she has even created a hummingbird garden where she can release them.
In June of 2008, author Sy Montgomery visited Brenda to learn what is involved in caring for a bird that weighs less than a quarter and has a metabolism so high it can go into shock if it misses a meal. The result of that visit was a chapter on hummingbirds in Sy’s newest book, Birdology.
Birdology is fascinating and dramatic reading. In her hummingbird chapter, Sy writes about the challenge of being a hummingbird rehabilitator and the perils of being a hummingbird, capturing the drama of seeing them through illness and injury and the nerve-wracking joy of release.
Excerpt from Birdology, by Sy Montgomery
Hummingbird rehabilitators are unsung heroes. Toiling away with their syringes and Kleenex, each is a Mother Theresa, a Saint George, a little Dutch boy with his finger in the dyke – desperately trying to fend off the hoards of monstrous perils facing these tiniest of all birds. Hawks, roadrunners, crows, jays, squirrels, opossums, raccoons – even dragonflies and preying mantids – eat them. Bass leap from ponds to gulp them whole. Fire ants and yellow jackets sting babies to death in the nest. Flying adults get impaled on the stamens of thistles. They are killed by unseasonable freezes — and by other hummingbirds. They spar with needle-like bills, but most hummers kill rivals by chasing them away from nectar sources. The losers starve.
They die from infestations of mites. They get blown off course on migration and run out of energy. They fly into spider webs while hunting for bugs, or while gathering the silk for nest-making. They fall to the ground with their wings bound, mummy-like, in sheets of sticky silk, unable to fly or feed. One woman found such a victim on the floor of her barn, so dirty and lifeless-looking that she kicked it with her shoe before realizing it was not a clod of dirt, but a glittering, still-living hummingbird, imprisoned in a robe of cobwebs.
Anna’s Hummingbird nestling in foster care at Brenda Sherburn’s home, photographed with a dime for size comparison.
Author Sy Montgomery and WildCare hummingbird specialist Brenda Sherburn in Brenda’s Fairfax hummingbird garden.
Baby hummingbird in its nest beginning to feed herself from a nectar-filled syringe.