How do you help a hurt hummingbird?

Hummingbirds are delicate little birds that flap their wings up to 80 times per second. They have very fast metabolisms and need to eat constantly to survive. These tiny birds weigh less than a nickel but have huge heart rates around 500 beats per minute during flight.

Hummingbirds are migratory and travel long distances every year. They face many threats during migration including predators, storms, tall buildings and glass, loss of habitat and food sources. Even in their normal environments, hummingbirds can become injured due to attacks from predators, accidents, illnesses and more.

If you find an injured hummingbird, here are some quick answers about how to help:

What should you do if you find an injured hummingbird?

– Gently capture the hummingbird with a towel or soft net. Avoid direct handling.

– Place the bird in a ventilated box or paper bag. Provide a perch.

– Keep the bird in a warm, dark, quiet space. Avoid excess handling.

– Contact a wildlife rehabilitation center or humane society immediately.

– Do not attempt to treat or rehabilitate the bird yourself. Leave that to the experts.

What should you NOT do if you find an injured hummingbird?

– Do not leave an injured hummingbird outside unattended. This leaves them vulnerable to predators.

– Do not try to nurse the bird back to health on your own. Hummingbirds require specialized care.

– Do not give the hummingbird food or water. This can be dangerous if done improperly.

– Do not handle the bird excessively or disrupt it. This can cause additional stress.

– Do not discard a dead hummingbird. The rehab center may still want to do a necropsy.

What are some common hummingbird injuries and illnesses?

– Collisions – Hummingbirds often collide into windows and buildings. This can result in concussions, fractures and other trauma.

– Predator attacks – Outdoor cats, snakes, hawks and other predators may attack hummingbirds, causing puncture wounds, lacerations and tissue damage.

– Entanglement – Hummingbirds can get caught in burrs, spiderwebs, string and hair. This restricts their movement.

– Metabolic disorders – Inadequate nutrition can cause issues like hypoglycemia and electrolyte imbalance in hummingbirds.

– Respiratory infections – Bacterial and fungal infections are common in hummingbirds and can be fatal.

– Nest abandonment – Baby hummingbirds occasionally get abandoned and cannot survive on their own.

What should you feed an injured hummingbird?

– Do NOT feed an injured hummingbird without vet consultation. Improper feeding can lead to aspiration which can be fatal.

– An emergency nectar solution can be made if specifically directed by a vet or rehabber. Mix 1 part white sugar with 4 parts water. No food coloring.

– Feed with an eyedropper or syringe, a few drops at a time. The fluid level should not go above the middle of the bird’s chest.

– In most cases, take the bird to a wildlife rehabilitator immediately. Do not attempt to rehabilitate it yourself.

How can you avoid injuring hummingbirds in your yard?

– Place decals on windows and screens in the hummingbird feeding areas to prevent collisions.

– Position feeders away from predator hiding spots like bushes or overhangs.

– Dispose of litter, wires and mesh fencing that could entangle hummingbirds.

– Keep cats indoors or supervised when hummingbirds are active outside.

– When cleaning feeders, make sure no cleaning fluids or soap residue is left behind.

Assessing an Injured Hummingbird

If you find an injured hummingbird in your yard, careful observation and assessment will help determine the bird’s condition and needs:

Watch the bird’s movements

– Labored or irregular flight may indicate an injury

– Inability to fly high or hover suggests muscle damage or exhaustion

– Lack of movement can signal a broken bone or nerve damage

– Twitching, tremors or loss of balance can point to head trauma or metabolic issues

Check the bird’s appearance

– Ruffled or broken feathers may be signs of collision or attack

– Matted plumage can mean the bird is oil-soaked or entangled in something

– Soil on feathers may indicate a ground collision

– Blood on the beak, chest or feathers is a sign of more serious injury

– Eyes should be clear, open and alert

Listen for abnormal vocal sounds

– Heavy or loud breathing can suggest respiratory infection

– Clicking sound may be a broken beak

– Whining or chirping could indicate pain or distress

– Wet sounds signal possible pneumonia

– No sound at all can mean the bird is unconscious or in shock

Be alert for unusual behavior

– Sitting on the ground immobile often signals injury or illness

– Unable to perch indicates leg, foot or balance issues

– Head tilt or unstable posture can point to inner ear or brain trauma

– Refusing to flee when approached may mean the bird is too weak

– Lethargy and puffed-out feathers are signs of distress

Caring for an Injured Hummingbird

If you confirm the hummingbird is injured and in need of rehabilitation, here are some tips for safe handling and temporary care:

Capture the hummingbird carefully

– Use a lightweight towel, sheet or net to gently envelop the bird to avoid direct handling.

– Scoop up a grounded bird by placing fabric underneath and lifting slowly.

– For higher perched birds, softly drape the fabric over and around bird to coax it to sit inside the sheet as you lower it.

– Move deliberately and steadily to minimize stress.

Place in a secure container

– Use a ventilated cardboard box, paper bag or mesh cage lined with a towel.

– The container should be just large enough for the bird to stand fully upright.

– Poke air holes for adequate ventilation.

– Affix a perch like a stick or cut pipette crosswise inside the carrier so the bird can alight.

– Keep the carrier in a warm, quiet, dark place away from commotion.

Avoid handling the bird

– Once secured in the temporary carrier, do not handle the bird further.

– If the bird escapes the carrier, repeat gentle capture with fabric and place back inside.

– Handle only if giving emergency fluids under rehabilitator guidance. Support head and neck.

– Keep disturbance minimal. Hummingbirds are very sensitive to stress.

Seek expert rehabilitation immediately

– Contact licensed wildlife rehabilitators or humane societies promptly.

– Administer only emergency care until a rehab expert can take over treatment.

– Keep the bird in a controlled environment en route to the facility. Avoid exposing to cold, heat, noise or other stressors.

– When transferring the bird, minimize handling. Deliver the enclosed carrier directly to facility staff.

Providing Emergency Care

In limited cases, you may need to provide emergency stabilization care while getting the bird to a rehab expert. Here are some tips under guidance of a wildlife rehabilitator:

Emergency warmth

– Use a heating pad or non-electric heat source like a microwaved rice sock.

– Place heating element only on one side of the enclosure so bird can move closer or farther away.

– Maintain enclosure at around 85-95 F. Monitor temperature. Overheating can also be dangerous.

Emergency hydration

– Severe dehydration is life-threatening for hummingbirds. They can die within hours.

– Use an eyedropper or feeder nozzle to give drops of plain sugar-water if specifically instructed by a rehabilitator.

– Give only minimal amounts just to stave off dire dehydration until the bird receives proper care. Do not overfeed.

Rescue from entanglement

– If a hummingbird is entangled in fiber, web or hair, carefully clip away the material with small scissors or tweezers.

– Avoid pulling on the material that could further damage tender skin or feathers.

– Cut parallel to the body when possible to avoid accidentally cutting the bird.

– Remove only as much as allows the bird to fully free itself from the entanglement.

Transport to rehabilitator

– Contact a wildlife rehabilitation facility as soon as the hummingbird is contained. Arrange transfer of the bird to their care.

– Until transfer, keep the bird in a warm, dark, quiet, enclosed space where it cannot further injure itself.

– Before transporting, cover the carrier with a lightweight cloth to minimize visual stress.

– Drive carefully to avoid jostling the carrier. Keep music and talk to a minimum.

Rehabilitation Process for Hummingbirds

Wildlife rehabilitators have specialized training, skills and facilities to stabilize and treat injured hummingbirds. Here is an overview of the rehabilitation process:

Intake examination

– Rehabbers perform a hands-on physical exam, assess symptoms and make tentative diagnosis.

– They evaluate weight and body condition, check for wounds, fractures, head trauma and evidence of illness.

– Blood work and lab tests may be done to check for infections and organ function.

– Radiographs determine broken bones and internal damage.

Fluids and nutrition

– Hummingbirds are fed specialized formulas through tiny feeding tubes.

– The nectar formula provides hydration along with proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals.

– Food is given every 10-20 minutes from dawn to dusk to mimic natural feeding habits.

Treatment and recovery

– Antibiotics, antifungals and pain medications may be administered for illness and injury.

– Broken bones are set and stabilized with bandaging or splinting. Damaged tissue is surgically repaired.

– The bird is moved to increasingly larger enclosures as their flying and feeding ability improves.

– Time in recovery depends on the severity of injury but can range from 2 weeks to 2 months.

Flight testing

– Before release, the bird’s flight must be re-conditioned and tested in controlled aviaries.

– Muscle strength and stamina are built back up through increasing duration of unrestricted flight.

– The bird must demonstrate ability to properly hover, feed and perch unassisted.

– If flight skills do not return, long term sanctuary placement may be required.

Release back to the wild

– Once fully recovered and flight tested, the hummingbird can be released at the original rescue location.

– Rehabbers identify safe open areas with plentiful natural food sources and shelter for release.

– Time of day, weather and seasonal conditions are evaluated to maximize chances of survival post-release.

– Continued survival depends on the extent of rehabilitation and the bird’s ability to adapt.

Preventing Hummingbird Injuries

While rehabilitation can help injured hummingbirds, it’s better to protect them from harm in the first place. Here are tips for preventing injuries:

Avoid window collisions

– Apply decals, sun catchers or other markers 2-4 inches apart on windows and screens where hummingbirds feed. Break up any large reflective areas.

– Position feeders and flowering plants at least 3 feet from windows with visibility.

Keep cats indoors

– Cats pounce on and injure significant numbers of hummingbirds each year. The most effective prevention is keeping pet cats strictly indoors.

– If cats must be outside, supervise them closely or put in screened outdoor enclosures when hummingbirds are active.

Eliminate entrapment hazards

– Trim vegetation that grows into or obstruct walkways and feeding areas.

– Remove any loose strings, wires or mesh fencing that could wrap around hummingbird feet or wings.

Care for feeders safely

– Change nectar every 2-3 days to prevent fermentation and bacteria.

– When cleaning feeders, thoroughly rinse soap and let dry completely before refilling. Any residue can harm the birds.

– Replace damaged feeders and toss out ones with rust or cracked openings which can injure hummingbirds.

Position feeders mindfully

– Site feeders in open spaces away from predator hiding spots and collision hazards.

– Hang feeders using fishing line rather than metal wire, which hummingbirds can fly into and get tangled.

– Place feeders out of reach of other wildlife and neighborhood dogs or cats.


Hummingbirds are a delight to have visit gardens but their fragility leaves them prone to injuries. With some simple prevention measures, we can help these tiny birds avoid hazards. If you do come across an injured hummingbird, resist the urge to intervene yourself. Contact an expert rehabilitator immediately for the bird’s best chance of survival and return to the wild. With specialized rehabilitation and release protocols, we can support healthy hummingbird populations. When caring hearts and expert hands work together, hurt hummingbirds can heal.

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