The Trapped Hummingbird

I’m married to a man who can usually be described as grumpy. He’s one of those glass-half-empty- guys, while I am a glass-half-full gal. Maybe that’s why it works. We balance each other out. He can also be incredibly charming and fun when he’s in a good mood. He is passionate and committed to the causes he believes in, and he has a huge heart, but he can be damn grumpy and difficult to live with. So on those days when I don’t think I can take another moment of grumpiness, I take a deep breath and remember this story.

One summer day, about a year before I quit the corporate gig, I was working from home like I usually did. My office space was upstairs in an alcove just outside our bedroom. I’m clicking away on some tedious spreadsheet and I heard something like a thumping, tapping sound in the bedroom. I got up and looked around the corner, but didn’t see anything. I went back to clicking away, and it started again. So I got up again and stood in the doorway of the bedroom and waited, and this is what I saw: a tiny hummingbird beating itself against our window, trying to get out. We have French doors leading to a small balcony off the bedroom, with casement windows on either side that open, but also two windows above the doors that don’t open.  The windows don’t have screens, and since it was a warm summer day, the two side windows were open and pushed out. The poor little hummingbird had inadvertently flown in through one of the open side windows, and when it realized it was inside a house (!), it panicked and flew up to escape, smashing into the window that doesn’t open above the French doors. The thumping sound was this little creature hurling its body against the window, desperately trying to get back outside.

Now, in addition to working on a really tedious spreadsheet, I was also trying to meet a tight deadline, and I needed this scenario of a trapped bird smashing itself to death in my bedroom like I needed a hole in the head. Suffice to say, the words that sprang into my mind were not ones that could be printed in a family newspaper. I also have cats who would have loved to join this little party. So I immediately shut the bedroom door and opened the French doors, thinking the little thing might see the wide opening and descend down enough to go through it and free itself. No such luck. The hurling against the window continued. I ran outside and cut a branch off our phygelius bush, thinking the red flowers might attract it, and hung it near the door opening. Zero result.  So then I did the only thing left to do: I called my husband.

He agreed with the steps I had taken so far, but didn’t have much else to offer. We were both scratching our heads. He said, well, just leave the doors open and eventually it will come down and go out. Okay. So I went back to work on my spreadsheet, but even through the closed door, I could hear the poor thing beating itself to death trying to escape. Half an hour later, the phone rang. My husband had contacted the Audubon Society for advice. He was now coming home to help me. He asked me to check on the little guy, and when I went into the bedroom, I was horrified to see the hummingbird had now collapsed and was laying on the floor, breathing heavily.  My husband tells me this is what he was afraid of, based on what the Audubon Society told him. Hummingbirds need constant food. The poor creature had worn itself out and had no energy left to carry on.  My husband said he had a plan and he hoped it would hang on until he got there.

So I hung up the phone and stared fretfully at the bird on the floor. It occurred to me that having a humming bird fly into your house and die is incredibly bad juju. It would be like a curse on our house.

I was frantic now. The hummingbird cannot die! I googled “trapped hummingbird” and found the hummingbird first aid page. Fortunately, my husband arrived home and we sprang into action. He told me what the experts instructed him to do, though they warned the chances were slim that the bird could be saved. We laid a small bed for the bird in a shoebox. While I prepared homemade nectar of four parts water and one part sugar, my husband carefully picked up the bird and placed it in the shoebox. The bird was not moving now. I was beside myself. This can’t be happening! We’re doomed! The bird is going to die in our house!

My husband took an eyedropper, filled it with the nectar, and held it to the tiny bird’s beak. We both stared down at this incredibly tiny and beautiful bird, green iridescent feathers laying motionless in the shoebox. And then…wait for it…the beak opened… and a tiny tongue came out to drink the nectar. My hopes soar! It drinks and rests and drinks and rests and then….slowly its eyes opened. This little bird was the most beautiful creature I have ever seen. Never have I had an opportunity to see a hummingbird so still and up close. It drank more and then began to flutter around, threatening to escape the confines of the shoebox. We moved the shoebox closer to an open window. The bird rose out of the box and, in a flash, it was out the window and gone.

I breathe. My relief was enormous. The bird is saved. No curse is upon my house. My husband saved the day. I feel humbled. While I descended into panic and despair, my husband rose to the challenge, took action in the face of discouraging odds, and saved the hummingbird.  For once, I was the one who saw the glass as half empty, but he saw it as half full.

In Native American animal medicine, the Hummingbird represents joy, and their feathers have been used in the making of love charms. Native Americans say that the Hummingbird conjures love like no other medicine does, and that Hummingbird feathers open the heart. My husband opened his to the possibility that we could save this little creature’s life and, because he believed we could, we did.

So I hope, when you feel like your glass is half empty, you have someone in your life who reminds you that the glass is really half full. And if you’re lucky, the two of you can work together to fill it up to the top.

Artwork for this post by my cousin Barbara Dersch.