The red-billed Streamertail hummingbird (Trochilus polytmus) is Jamaica's national bird.
I wish I had a camera crew with me today! And hopefully by the end of the day I will at least have still pictures to show you.
Yesterday evening I was called to rescue two baby hummingbirds (streamertails) in Discovery Bay, and it has been an amazing adventure. The babies were discovered by Rita, a young friend of NJCA member 'Jacki Roots', on top of a tomb in the yard, when she noticed the mother bird hovering and chirping frantically over the spot. The twig to which their nest was attached had broken off and fallen from a high ackee tree; the babies didn’t fall out because their little feet were tangled up in the nest – made mostly of nylon pillow stuffing!
Rita picked up the babies just as a dog was about to gobble them up, and she took them to show Jacki, who called me. When I arrived I put the babies into a small carry cage, on a perch, and fed them with glucose solution and a dropper – they perked up immediately. We heard the mother chirping outside, so we put the cage in a crotch of the ackee tree. But Mother wouldn’t go there; she was still hovering over the tomb! We put the cage down on the tomb, doorway up so the babies were sitting just under the opening. Within a couple minutes, Mother appeared and began to feed the babies, even perching on the cage! It was obvious that she was determined to look after them, no matter what.
Night was falling – rain too – so we had to figure out where and how to leave them protected but accessible. Jacki found an old iron stand about 4 feet high, and we put it on top of the place where the nest had fallen. We used a large box (placed on its side) as shelter for the cage, and a piece of board for a roof over that.
This morning [Sunday 11/Nov] it was pouring with rain, and Jacki called to say the babies were alive but cold! One of them had fallen off the perch and was out of reach, and in any case, the mother would not go inside the box shelter to feed them. I went back to Discovery Bay to help figure out what to do – first thing being emergency feeding, much appreciated. Their original nest was ruined, so I had to improvise: I looked around and found an old (large) hair curler – the perfect object to make a new ‘nest’ from! I lined and padded it with paper towel and was able to push a long, skinny piece of iron through two of the holes in order to support the nest inside the little cage, just under the opening where the perch had been before.
While I was doing this, I put the babies on their stick perch on top of the board beside me. The mother soon arrived to see what was going on. She watched everything, hovered and perched beside the babies on their perch, about one foot from me as I worked to fix up the ‘nest’! As soon as I was finished placing them in the nest and hanging it on the stand (under the board but not in the box) she zoomed in to feed her babies. I left them comfortably snuggled down into their new ‘nest’, sheltered from the rain, with Mother in attendance.
Later on today I will go back to take pictures – can’t believe I left my camera TWICE! Will send pictures when I return.
From: SOS-Wildlife [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Hi again, Everyone
Here are the pictures of the hummingbirds! I didn’t make it back yesterday because of the deluge, but late this afternoon the rain held up long enough to allow a trip to Discovery Bay for a visit to the hummingbird family, and they were just fine! Barb Zampelli and I got there at about 5:30 pm. The babies were alert and noticeably more feathered than Saturday, when we rescued them from the ground. I took a few pictures of the setting – the iron frame sitting on top of Brother Brown’s tomb, with the little cage hanging from it – then went up close to photograph the babies. I had just taken the first shot when the mother arrived, hovered for a few seconds about six inches in front of my face, decided I was OK, and then pitched on the cage and began to feed the babes – literally under my nose. I held my breath and watched, snapped a couple of quick shots; they were a bit fuzzy – it was gloomy but I didn’t want to use the flash close up.
We waited and watched; it was getting darker. I decided to try one more close-up of the babies, standing a bit further away and zooming in, with the flash on. That’s when I took the picture with my fingers in it. Within seconds, Mother zoomed in and repeated her check of me (I passed the test again) and that’s when I took the next two shots. I couldn’t have asked for better results. Enjoy!
The Setting - Mr. Brown's tomb under the ackee tree in Jacki's backyard, above Discovery Bay.
The babies in their new nest - a partially melted hair curler!
Mother is coming!
Here she is, feeding her babes about 18 inches from my face.
NJCA member Barb Zampelli (L) with Rita Witter, who found the baby hummingbirds in their fallen nest. Everyone at Jacki's yard has been entranced by the hummingbird family. I'll try to put more pictures here soon.