by Marianne McIver
Silk Hope, NC – Yesterday, I found a young hummingbird caught in a spider web on my porch. It was hanging by one leg and a wing and struggling to get loose. I took a soft cloth and enclosed it gently while breaking loose the web that was holding it. We sat on another porch where the hummingbirds were flying around the feeders and they began to take an interest.
The little one closed his eyes and rested, clinging to the cloth with tiny black claws. His breathing slowed. I picked remnants of web and loosened feathers from his green shimmery body. After he had rested 10 min or so, I tried feeding him the nectar from the feeders, using a 3cc syringe. His beak fit into the hole and he immediately began drinking. After the first drink, he perked up, stood on his legs and fluttered his wings a few times, as if to see if they still worked. I was heartened by the rapid humming beat.
After several feedings he was so alert that I coaxed him onto a branch of the butterfly bush below the feeders. One female hummingbird in particular kept getting closer and closer to him in her flight. She also flew in front of my face and peered at me. I stayed still and watched the story unfold. She moved closer still and pushed the young one, more with her body than beak, although at first glance it looked pretty scary. He fell back, but held on although upside down, hanging from the twig. When he righted himself, he started preening his feathers, straightening out some that were at odd angles. He practiced flying again. She came at him twice more, and then the third time she knocked him loose from the branch and he flew off across the field with her right beside him.
I wonder how long it had been since he left the nest. He was about 2/3 the size of the adults that were around the feeders. These are ruby throated hummingbirds that arrive here each year in April, raise their young and depart about mid-October.
Initially, I would have predicted that this fragile little bird would not survive his trauma. So to see them fly off together was a great gift.