01 May, 2018

The Hummingbird Chronicles

Or: What happened in the Eason household last week/end.

Karma, the Anna's hummingbird
We begin on the previous Sunday with Murdercat catching and eating a hummingbird, midflight. OK, fine. Let me be more precise: he caught it midflight. He ate it after everyone was on the ground again, and after he'd played with the sad little feathery corpse for a good half an hour. It's gross, y'all, but it's also him being a cat, and he's so damned happy and proud of himself it's hard to be mad or grossed out for too long.

For those keeping score: hummingbirds caught: 4. Hummingbirds killed: 3. Hummingbirds eaten: 2.

I moved the feeding station again, back to its formerly Very High Point on the wall, behind a hedge of angry agave (agave are always angry) and a tomato cage (with a tomato plant in it, not just a random tomato cage). I had moved it off the wall because management, may they choke on their own stupidity, had directed me to "get all the plants off the wall" in contravention of their own policies because there were Muckity Mucks coming to visit the complex and since our apartment backs on to the pool area, Muckities would be able to see...us in compliance with the rules about plants on the walls? I don't know. (This is the same site manager who tried to tell me they did not need to reassemble the bedroom closet after the HVAC work because workmen were returning the next day, and that we could store all our clothes in the main office overnight. I lost my shit, folks. Utterly. Anyway. Not an individual one looks to for consistent or logical policy decisions.)


On Thursday, while I was teaching at the high school, Nous found a hummingbird in the parking lot. Alive. Huddled behind the cars. Apparently unbroken but also motionless. Because of its docile (terrified) behavior, and because it did not try to fly, he assumed a baby, albeit one with most of its feathers. There are scads of nests in the complex, and in that area alone, there are at least three likely trees...all, like, 20-30 feet from where he found the bird. If she fell out the nest, she fell a long way.

He waited. No parents. He moved her off the parking lot and kept watching. No parents. The sun began setting, the shadows got long, the temperature dropped. The bird remained huddled and scared. No parents.

You see where this is going, right?

I came home and we had a very tiny guest in a shoebox, nestled among crumpled paper and perched on Nous's softest hand-knit green sock (she looked cold, he said). He had taken the eyedropper from his beer making supplies (I have no idea what he uses it for) and successfully fed her some of the nectar I make for the feeding station. She was in the hard-sided cat carrier, which is a dark, solid place, coming out every hour or so for meals. She seemed to have all her feathers, but we are not hummingbird experts and honestly, the birds I have handled most extensively have been dead and denuded by Murdercat. Most of my experience of feathers is on the carpet or all over the patio. So.

We figured she would die overnight. Birds always die overnight, but at least she would do so warm and safe. I worried the entire time that Murdercat would get up on the counter and knock the carrier down. He did not, but when I got up on Friday, it was turned a good 90 degrees on the counter. He'd tried.

And somehow, the bird was not dead. She greeted me on Friday morning with a piercing chirp and an expectantly open mouth. Oh. That's how it is, then.

And thus began the Hummingbird Chronicles, aka The Weekend. We read the interwebz. Call a rescuer, they said, for babies, which she clearly was not But they also said, 72 hours for sugar water only is okay, if the bird seems just stunned, and try fruit flies all mashed up. Also, the time between trying to fly and actual flight is, like 1-3 days. So okay. She'd clearly tried flying. Maybe she could...try again. Soon. And leave. Except... when she flapped, one wing would not quite extend laterally, although when she folded them, they sat symmetrically on her body. Not a dislocation, not a break, but something wasn't right.

We moved her into the soft-sided cat carrier, with its mesh sides and top that cat paws cannot penetrate. Murdercat began working on the zippers. Right. We put the carrier into the puppy crate. Murdercat began working on the latch, but since he's not a Border collie, he had no joy. Bird inside, cat outside. During the day, she went out, in her shoebox only, in the hopes she'd fly. She did not, but she flapped alot, and Big Daddy, the dominant adult male Anna's hummingbird, came down and menaced her a few times. She was unimpressed. She flapped. She fell off her perch (a knitting needle). She climbed back on. I fed her. Nous fed her. She flapped and flapped. And she spent another night in the kitchen in her double-walled cat-proof cell.

Louhi was indifferent. Murdercat was Very Concerned About The Flapping Thing and assigned himself as sentinel. He didn't get a lot of sleep. We named her Karma; Murdercat's Bane seemed too big for a bird that tiny.

By Sunday afternoon, it was clear she was not going to fly, and we called the wildlife rescue. It took, like, 5 minutes to get us in touch with the local rescuer and 5 minutes after that to arrange to drop her off. If any other bureaucracy was that efficient, we would rule the world. (There's an idea. Wildlife Rescue for World Domination! I'm on it.)

So somewhat anticlimactically, the Hummingbird Chronicles ended with Karma going to a volunteer with wildlife rescuer with the proper licensing to rehab hummers, this tiny little older woman with a living room full of birds. A flight cage for the wounded, just full of these little feathered jewels. A shelf of intake containers, fleece-lined and soft-mesh topped and equipped with a feeding tube. Several tanks of babies. A tank full of partly fledged babies. It was kind of amazing. The rehabber pronounced Karma a fully fledged Anna's hummingbird female, just on the cusp of juvenile, who should be capable of flight but might be not very good at it yet. Apparently there's a week or so between parental ejection and learning to self-feed where they can get into a lot of trouble. She was glad we rescued her. So were we.

Thus endeth the Chronicle: happily, and not in death and feathers.