DEAR JOAN: Does a mama hummingbird disappear when her babies die?
I had a hummingbird nest, and I was fostering the baby at nights, putting him back out in the morning for mama to feed. I did this for seven days. It was beautiful to see.
I have two dogs outside and lots of feral cats in our community. This is why I was putting the baby indoors for his safety. He kept falling off the tree. One afternoon I saw him testing his wings again, and he flew right above my dog, who caught him in the air. You can imagine the results of that. Heart breaking.
So two weeks later, another hummingbird built a nest on the tree next to the first one. I refuse to believe it’s the same hummingbird. They don’t look the same, but I want to learn a better strategy to help the baby have a successful outcome. Any ideas?
DEAR ROCIO: While I respect and understand your desire to give baby hummingbirds the best chance at full, long lives, getting too involved with nature isn’t a good thing to do in the long run.
Let’s start with some of the misconceptions many of us have about baby birds — wrong ideas that can lead to unnecessary “rescues.”
When baby hummingbirds are about two weeks old, their mother stops sitting on the nest, which can lead some to believe she has abandoned them. She hasn’t. There just isn’t enough room in the nest for her, and she watches from nearby, ready to tend to her babies and ward off predators.
She will fly in regularly to feed them, then retreat to the background. The feeding is often so fast that people miss it and think the babies are starving.
Another misconception is that a baby bird on the ground is in need of rescue. It might be, but it could just be learning how to fly. Like me when I was learning to ski, they tend to spend a lot of time on the ground.
They are at risk from predators, but their parents are keeping an eye on them and will do all they can to protect them. Some can even carry the babies back into the nest, if need be.
If you find a young feathered bird on the ground, just stay back and watch. You can help protect the bird by keeping other animals away, but otherwise, wait and see what happens. The exception is injured birds or babies that are naked and alone. They might need a hand back into the nest or a trip to a wildlife or bird rescue.
Please, don’t be bringing the babies inside, separating them from their mum. There is a chance the baby will imprint on you, losing some of its natural wariness of humans. That will make it more difficult for it to survive on its own. Most of us just aren’t equipped with the knowledge or ability to care for wild creatures, so it’s best left to their parents to teach them survival skills.
The hummingbird that has built a new nest could be the same one that built the original. It also could be a new bird. Obviously, your yard is welcoming to wildlife, despite the dogs and cats.
The best thing you can do for the hummingbirds is to love them from afar.
Contact Joan Morris at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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