For the Birds Radio Program: Another Hummingbird Update

Original Air Date: Nov. 24, 2004

Laura is in Florida, so had to make arrangements for someone to make sure the hummingbird is getting food.

Duration: 3′41″


As you hear this program, I’m down in Florida, celebrating Thanksgiving with Russ and our children. Now that Joey is working at Disney World and Katie is going to school in Ohio, it’s harder and harder for us to be together as a family—this is actually the first time the five of us have all been together in two years.

But meanwhile, I had to leave for Florida while my hummingbird was still coming to my feeder, and it’s frustrating having to spend it away from her, hoping she’s migrated away or at least eating well and staying reasonably warm. It would have been lovely to transport her with us, but that’s illegal, and besides, hummingbirds just don’t travel well, and are very stressed by capture. I keep thinking of Robert Frost’s poem, Death of the Hired Man. Silas has returned to Warren and Mary’s place, and she has a feeling of impending doom, telling Warren, “He has come home to die. You needn’t be afraid he’ll leave you this time.” As with Silas, I rather wish our little hummingbird would up and leave, but as Mary tells Warren, “Home is where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.”

It’s scary knowing that if this bird doesn’t leave soon, she’ll most likely succumb to winter. But she won’t die hungry, and she won’t die of a heart attack in a panic as some strange human grabs her, and I guess that’s all any of us can ask for, and that’s really the best any of us can give her. I’m heartened that she’s an adult female, and actually one who appears to be on the older side, based on the large number of dark feathers on her face and throat. That means she’s already gone through at least one nesting cycle, and migrated and overwintered successfully at least once.

There’s still a good chance that after she’s bulked up well she’ll move on. She was starving when she arrived—she spent that first day feeding almost constantly, and stayed longer than she has any day since. I cut down the number of feeders outside on Monday, in hopes that she’ll figure flowers are closing up and she better move on, but I don’t dare take the feeders in when she’s actively using them because she’s counting on them. Migrating birds really do know when to migrate, and although the cases of late or wintering hummingbirds tend to be western species, and some do die in cold weather, there is no evidence that the birds would have survived had the feeders not been there. This one was so hungry when she arrived that without my feeders, she’d have died several days ago.

Anyway, I’m thinking about her as Thanksgiving approaches, and thinking that I’m grateful to have had her visit, and grateful that we live on a planet, and on a continent, where hummingbirds abound. She’s one little individual, and like Mary in Frost’s poem, I sure want her to survive and be happy, and I’m grateful that she found her way to my place and made it her home, at least for a time. I hope against hope that she’ll survive and move on, but no matter what happens, I’m glad I could give a lost little bird a safe little haven for at least a time.