One of the great joys of living in Tucson is the year-around presence of hummingbirds. This year, in particular, for whatever reason, the hummingbird population at my feeders has exploded. Rather than the three or four regulars through the winter season, I'm seeing up to 15 of the tiny birds. At times, they resemble a swarm of bees, especially during a rainstorm when their feeding seems particularly frantic.
With all this air traffic, accidents are bound to happen. I have floor-to-ceiling windows facing a front courtyard where several feeders hang. Occasionally, a bird will crash in to a window and knock himself out. One chilly day last week I heard a thump on the window. Afraid of what it meant, I looked out on the ground below the window and there was a lifeless-looking little bundle of feathers. I gathered him up and brought him in the house for some revival warmth.
He rested calmly for about 15 minutes, then he signaled his readiness to go by fluttering his wings. Outside we went and as soon as I opened my hand, off he flew. Success!
Just a few days later, on what was to be our coldest night, darkness had already settled, and inside, I was sitting just a few feet from the window. I kept hearing a fluttering sound, sort of like when a moth is trying to escape. I turned around to look for the moth. Instead, on the outside down on the sill was a hummingbird flying up and down the window. How odd, I thought. But, I knew she must be in trouble, so I went into rescue mode again. It was a little female, possibly a juvenile as there were no markings. I scooped her up and brought her inside. She seemed exhausted. When she finally appeared to recover, I was afraid to release her into the cold and dark. Hummingbirds go to their overnight roost before dark and, when the temperatures are cold, go into a state of torpor, or lowered metabolic rate. This allows them to survive sub-freezing temperatures.
My husband scrounged around the house and found a box, which we then outfitted with a soft towel for a perch and another light towel over the top allowing for air. I put her in and closed the top and she immediately settled quietly. Once the sun was up the next morning and the temperature had risen somewhat, I placed the box outside and removed the lid. She sat patiently for a few minutes, and then she was gone.
I saw her later at the feeder chowing down on sugar water. Did she nod at me and wink?