“That leaf looks like a hummingbird,” I thought. It caught my eye from across the room while we were eating lunch. A little later I was closer to the back door and noticed it again. Then I realized that it was a hummingbird! It’d been there, under a lounger on our back porch, for hours on a hot summer afternoon! That wasn’t good!

I went out to see it up close and when I bent down beside it, it started fluttering its wings and hopping, but not flying. 

“Hmmm, what could be wrong, and what can I do to help?”

I thought maybe I could take it to the hummingbird feeders in the front yard and help it get a drink. It must be thirsty! It took to the perch, but it wouldn’t drink. It didn’t seem to know what to do.

I sat at a table with it and tried dipping my finger into the sugar water and then holding it against the tip of its beak. After several attempts, it started licking the tip of my finger with his filament-type tongue.

Thumbelina drinking from my finger

What a wonderful experience to hold such a tiny creature and get to study it up close: her tiny feet, beautiful iridescent feathers, and sleek beak. Such a beauty!

We spent quite a bit of time there under the tree. It became pretty comfortable with me and seemed quite relaxed on my hand. As much as I was enjoying feeding her, we both began to get sticky, so I was anxious for her to drink on her own.

Looking up info online, I deducted that she was a young female Ruby-Throated hummingbird. The name “Thumbelina,” came to mind and it seemed fitting since she was about the size of my thumb, so I began calling her that.

As the sun lowered, I started to fret about what to do with her for the night. After studying photos of hummingbird nests, I went to the backyard near where I found her. I examined the cherry trees and rose bush, but no luck.

The best idea I could come up with was to set it up on the front porch somehow. Storms were forecasted for the night, and I also worried about predators. I got a pretty little teacup for the tiny bird and put a fluffed cotton ball in it, hoping that might appeal to it. It didn’t take to the cotton, but chose to perch on the edge of the cup.

I was still sitting on the porch with her when my husband got home. He had the idea of putting an inverted colander over her as a make-shift cage, so I did that. Then I put a plant on top to weigh it down and provide a little more protection. The information I’d read said that they sleep through the night, so I hoped it’d be okay until I got up the next morning and could try to feed her again.

Morning coffee with a friend

First thing the next morning I went to see how she did and was happy to see that she had done fine. I fed her some breakfast by dipping my finger in the sugar water as before. Soon after, she began slurping it directly from the feeder herself. Progress!

Thumbelina begins drinking from the feeder
A tiny hummingbird feather

During the day, I took her back out to the table under the tree. It was between two other feeders, so she could be among the other hummingbirds. I began to notice a female hummingbird that came near often. She hovered and seemed to be checking out Thumbelina. Could that be her mother?

Hanging out with the other hummers

Thumbelina exercised her wings more this day. I found that if, while she was sitting in my hand, I put my other hand in front of her that she would hop/fly onto it. So we did that quite a bit.

Thumbelina preening and exercising her wings

“Flap your wings!”

I took her to some flowers in my garden that I had seen other hummingbirds visiting, and held her near. She poked her beak into the tubes. I can’t be sure if she got anything, but I was glad to see her try. One such stop was at the birdbath-turned-planter that had some calibrachoa in it. I also let her flutter and hop around atop the plants. Mama bird (?) sat nearby on the fence watching her.

Then I learned that mama birds feed their babies regurgitated insects such as gnats and spiders. Remembering that I had some mealworms on hand for bluebirds, I wondered if I might be able to use those. When the internet confirmed they would work, I ground one up with my finger, mixed it with some sugar water, and used a dropper to offer it to Thumbelina. She ate that right up, so I hoped it would give her more of what she needed.

We spent several days together, but I was getting ready to go out of town, so she was going to have to become independent. I put her and a feeder under a bush. I had tried to help her, but also realized that I might be doing more harm than good at that point and leaving her alone might be best anyway.

The next day I nervously went to check on her, but she was nowhere to be found. Had something gotten her? Had she flown away? 

Several times that afternoon, I spotted a hummingbird that looked like Thumbelina, perched atop the shepherd’s hook above where I had left her. Could that be Thumbelina? I decided that it was.

I learned a lot from Thumbelina’s short visit. I found it interesting that hummingbirds go into a state called “torpor” when they sleep where they lower their metabolism to conserve energy. One site stated that they can take as long as an hour to wake up, shivering to build up body heat. It takes me about an hour to wake up, too, but instead of shivering, I drink coffee. LOL! I was also amused to learn that they sleep upside down, dangling from a small branch or perch. Those little flying jewels are quite intriguing!

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