alfreda89: 3 foot concrete Medieval style gargoyle with author's hand resting on its head. (Oxblood Lilies)
[personal profile] alfreda89
I've been reading a wonderful book called "Fastest Things on Wings" by Terry Masear. (Thank you, Lee!) It's a memoir of Masear's early days as a hummingbird rehab specialist. I've done a review that will crop up at Book View Cafe and Goodreads, but in the meantime, let's save a few hummingbird lives. Here are some things I either didn't know, or suspected. Let's share them and save some lives.

1) Never, EVER feed a hummingbird ants. (They cannot digest the hard bits--ants will clog the pipes and choke/starve them.)

2) NEVER feed a hummingbird brown sugar. (Remember the adults turned up their noses at that Organic Cane Sugar syrup I made? The molasses can slowly seal their mandibles closed. It can kill a baby.)

3) You cannot keep a baby hummingbird alive at home, and it's illegal to do so. They must have dissolved protein formula, not just sugar water. They will starve if all they get is sugar water. Find a wildlife rehab place to see if they can help--or better, check online for reattaching a cut-down or windfall nest as closely as possible to its original location. The mother will return--and she's FAST, so don't immediately assume she's not there.

4) It's a MYTH that if you touch the fledgling, the mother will abandon it. Hummingbirds are smart. If you put a fledgling back in the nest, and she's alive, she will return.

5) A baby hummingbird gets fed about every thirty minutes during daylight--EXCEPT for the first few days after hatching. The newborns are still feeding off the last of their yolk sack. So she won't feed them quite as often. Trust the mother. She's hard-wired to do the job right.

6) Masaur did not specifically say this, but there's a conversation in the book with her and a would-be rescuer about "pink sugar." Don't use it. A feeder is a juice bar--hummers use it in migration, when they are tanking up for the thousands of miles they will travel. Or during times when the blooming flowers in their own territories are sparser. A few ambitious ones choose a feeder as their territory. If you use a RED feeder, they will find the feeder. But it may take time. Just keep putting out fresh, clean feeders.

7) DO NOT put a feeder close to a hummingbird nest. If you spot a nest, move the feeder a little farther away. You know that old chestnut about nothing being fiercer than a mother protecting its young? A mother hummer will KILL another bird approaching her nest--and that means she might suddenly snap and kill a hummingbird approaching the feeder. Hummers have microseconds to decide if a hummer is threatening aggression, or is in kill mode. Don't set up a tragedy. If she needs a hit at the juice bar, if you hang a red feeder, she will find it.

8) Hummers hunt by sight, not scent. Bright flowers and feeders, red a favorite!

9) If you can't keep the feeder clean, don't hang one. Hummingbirds can pick up mold infections from dirty feeders (black mold on the inside glass or plastic, ghostly swirls in the solution) and fungus from dirty posts. These things will slowly kill them. A feeder needs to be cleaned every 2-3 days, and the hotter it is outside, the more often you must rinse that feeder well with very hot water.

10) There are things you can do to help hummingbirds in trouble, but you can't just grab one if you think the mother has left. The mom returns something like every 30 minutes or so for about 5 SECONDS. Wham, feeds her twins, then is off to harvest enough to feed herself and them another time. You CANNOT look away if you are trying to confirm that she's there.

I need to find Masaur's site and verify this, because I am basing it on two different comments she made in the book. She said that once she gets hold of a fledgling and they are warmed up and fed properly, if there is no wing injury, she can launch almost 100% back into the wild. The "in the wild" without human interaction survival rate is around 30%. We can't save every songbird--we can't save every hummingbird. But these things will help them a lot. We have changed their life patterns with urbanization. So let's do our best to be helpful neighbors, okay?

Go forth and do right by hummers. Read the book--it will both delight you and tear your heart out. You have been warned.

(Photo by Tz'unun - Feeding station at Beatty's Guest Ranch in Miller Canyon. Previously published:, CC BY-SA 3.0,

elderberry cordia;

Date: 2016-11-10 12:10 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I am intrigued by the cordial recipe that you posted on BVC. Interesting that it calls for both types of cinnamon. Any idea why?

Re: elderberry cordial

Date: 2016-11-10 10:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Because I had both varieties on hand. The Ceylon Cinnamon is the delicate, lemon-touched version the British Aristos hoarded in WW2. The Saigon version is the robust kind from my childhood, intense and used in Mexican cooking.

I looked at a dozen or so recipes and created that one. ;) You can use Indonesian, too--it is lighter with no lemon tinge.

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