This is the story that caught my attention…
Every 20 minutes, from dawn to dark, the babies need food. That means catching hundreds of fruit flies a day, freezing them, crushing them with mortar and pestle, and mixing the mush with special nectar supplemented with vitamins, enzymes, and oils in precise combination. The mixture spoils easily. If it does, it can kill the baby birds.
Wow! Feeding birds every 20 minutes all day (and all night!) long? I can’t even imagine what that must be like other than completely exhausting.
What does a day in the life of a hummingbird rescue look like?
That short snippet wasn’t nearly enough to satisfy my curiosity so I sought out the book referenced in the article, Fastest Things on Wings: Rescuing Hummingbirds in Hollywood by Terry Masear. Luckily my local library had a Kindle version available so I checked it out and dove right in.
Unfortunately, life got in the way and I only finished a few chapters of the book before my loan ended. Sometimes I can let it go. Not this time. A week later I still needed to know more and checked it out again.
The book has endless stories. Most have a happy ending but some do not. You can feel the exhaustion and the emotions radiating from the page and find yourself cheering for the tiny miracles to be able to return to the wild.
Terry Masear, Hummingbird Rescue and Rehabilitation Volunteer, Writes About Her Experiences
Fastest Thing on Wings is written by Terry Masear, a volunteer who rescues hummingbirds in Los Angeles. The climate of southern California is a good fit for hummingbirds and many live there year-round rather than migrating. The various hummingbird rescue organizations there take in more birds in a single summer day than most other rescues handle in an entire year. Prime time for rescues is the summer nesting season and in southern California is an almost 24/7 job for about 3 months.
For baby hummingbirds, the summer is a time of great peril.
But fortunately for hundreds of these tiny, battered creatures, there’s a subculture of people who are eager to step in as surrogate parents. The volunteers, or “hummingbird rehabbers,” devote themselves to raising hummingbird orphans and nursing injured fledglings and adults back to health so they can be returned to the wild.
When the summer arrives — and with it, new hatchlings — the work is an all-consuming, around-the-clock affair.-Terry Masear
An Interview with the Author of Fastest Things on Wings, Terry Masear
You can read the article on WBUR or you can listen to the on-air interview below.
Q & A with Terry Masear
Enjoy this video of the Bella hummingbird webcam feed while listening to a Q & A session with Fastest Things on Wings author, Terry Masear.
Don’t have time to read the book? Check out this short summary…
If you really don’t have time to read a whole book and you’d like the cliff-notes version of the book, check out this article on National Geographic. It gives you a good sampling of what you will find in the book.
What to do if you see a hummingbird who may need help
- Assume that baby birds are abandoned because you don’t see the mother. After a few weeks, she stops sitting on the nest and returns only briefly to feed them.
- Keep hummingbirds in captivity or try to raise them yourself. It’s illegal.
- Call a licensed wildlife rehab facility if you find an injured or orphaned bird.
- Clean feeders regularly. Fill with one part white sugar to four parts water. Dirty feeders kill.
Click here to visit the website of Los Angeles Hummingbird Rescue. Not in LA? Google to find your local wildlife rescue contact.
If I learned anything from reading this book, it’s that baby hummingbirds are extremely fragile and as an inexperienced rescuer you can do more harm than good. Call the professionals for help!
Watch a Hummingbird Rescue Operation in Action
Here’s a video of a hummingbird rescue organization in Utah caring for two babies…
When will the hummingbirds migrate back?
Check out this website for a map showing average migration range of the various species across the US as well as a map marking the current year migratory sightings. In my area, they are expected around April 20. I don’t usually see too many of them in my neighborhood but I’ll be watching.
What about you? Do you see a lot of hummingbirds where you live?
Watch Momma Hummingbird Raise Her Babies
If you don’t see many hummingbirds where you live, you can watch this fun video of a momma hummingbird raising her two babies.
For your viewing pleasure, I present The Life of A Momma Hummingbird –
Buy the book!
If your curiosity is piqued like mine was, go ahead and buy the book. It’s a rollercoaster of emotions but a journey well-worth taking.
Sharing is Caring!
Want to read more about birds?
The hummingbird is the smallest bird in the world. Emus are the (second) largest bird in the world. Did you know the Australians once fought a war against these giant birds? Check it out!
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Websites visited while writing:
- National Geographic book talk
- Recording of Live Chat with Terry Masear
- Excerpt from Chapter 1 of Fastest Things on Wings (includes audio interview with author and written excerpt)
- Day in life of momma hummingbird
- Los Angeles Hummingbird Rescue
- Los Angeles Times article about hummingbird rescue
- Hummingbird Migration maps – US