Last week, I told you about an encounter I had between my head and a nest full of hornets, and how I sometimes seem to be missing the gene that controls a fear of animals. Well, that extends to a lot of creatures besides violent stinging insects.
It started out as a normal afternoon. I had finished my lunch and was heading out through the garage to run a few errands. As soon as I left the house, I heard something that sounded like a huge mosquito. My first thought was, of course, vengeful hornets with power tools but that wasn’t it. I froze in place and tried to locate the “buzz-thump-buzz-thump” sound, and that’s when I saw it.
It was a hummingbird—a female ruby-throated hummingbird to be exact.
“This is new,” I thought. We’ve been hosts to a variety of critters in our garage, including snakes, chipmunks, strange cats, robins, crickets, dragonflies and Lord knows what else, but I wasn’t at all prepared to see this.
There are two overhead doors on our garage; each with a row of windows, and this little green hummingbird was flailing against the windows of the closed door trying to get out. Naturally, I wanted to get a closer look but when I did, she flew over and slammed into a smaller side window. Birds just can’t grasp the concept of glass, can they? Honestly, if you were gifted with the ability to fly, wouldn’t you take the time to figure out glass? I was finally able to coax her away from the window and she landed clumsily on the floor.
Now as my wife, daughter, and anyone who knows me would tell you, I have absolutely no fear of picking up stray animals of any kind. I have no idea why. The only thing that has ever bitten me was a dog when I was around twelve and a snake that latched onto my thumb knuckle a few years ago. My wife was probably thinking that this hummingbird would get annoyed at my interference and drill that dart-like beak right into my eye. This would mean that Mrs. G. would then have to drive me to the urgent care place with an irritated bird hanging out of my eyeball.
“Nature of visit?”
“Um … let’s call it bird stuck in the eye.”
“Huh. Would you look at that? Well, that’s going on YouTube.”
So anyway, I bent over and the bird simply hopped up in my hand. Stupidly, it never even occurred to me that hummingbirds even had feet, since I’ve never seen them perch on anything. Hopping wasn’t even on my radar.
My wife noticed right away that she had a pine needle stuck to her wing and since hummingbirds flap their wings around a zillion times per second (and are capable of hovering in place and flying backward, sideways and forwards) this pine needle was seriously messing up her aerodynamics.
I gently grabbed the gooey part of the needle and carefully pulled it off her wing. Once it was off, I was able to smooth out the feathers until things looked about as normal as I thought they should look. There was no struggle at all to get away, as she just sat there in the palm of my hand and let me do this. When she was all cleaned up, my wife and I walked out of the garage with the bird still in my hand and a few seconds later, she lifted up like a helicopter and flew away.
The next day, I was leaving the house again after lunch, and guess who was back in the garage?
Since we didn’t want her to hurt herself, we opened both overhead doors and the back door with the hope that she would just fly out on her own. No such luck. She perched herself on the bracket that holds up one of the garage door openers and then went into what’s known as torpidity. Hummingbirds use up a lot of energy, so when they rest; they often crash to the point where they look dead. Kind of like me after 11:00 p.m.
I got up on a stepladder and tried to see if she would go back onto my hand, but just as I got close, she lazily flew off to the other garage door opener bracket. This back and forth dance went on for a bit, with me perching the stepladder around the lawnmower, bicycles, a fertilizer spreader, a miter saw, gas cans and a bunch of other stuff while trying to tempt her back onto my hand. Did I mention that I was on a stepladder? My wife was already idling the car for urgent care.
This is when it hit me. Or my wife. I’m not sure who had the idea, but I held up a broom and the bird landed right on the bristles. I mean—BAM—like a trained parrot. I tried to walk it outside, but as soon as I got a few feet from the opening, she’d fly back to the garage and land on the garage door opener bracket. She really seemed to love those brackets. I tried this at least a dozen times and she’d do the same thing over and over.
It was a game.
“Let me try,” my wife said.
And so she did, but the bird absolutely would not land on the broom when Mrs. G. held it. When she handed the broom back to me, the bird immediately jumped right back on it.
This was freaking me out.
This went on for a good hour until she finally stayed on the broom long enough for me to get her outside where she simply flew away.
We figured since hummingbirds are attracted to the color red, she might have been drawn to the freakishly large taillights on our SUV, so we decided to keep the garage doors closed. That was Mrs. G’s theory, anyway. I wanted to think that the bird felt close to me—like the lion to Androcles —and she just wanted to fly back and thank me for pulling the needle out of her wing. Pretty goofy, right? I mean, it’s just a bird.
Later that night, Mrs. G. and I were sitting on our back porch talking about, among other things, the bat that had been paying us a nightly visit, when the oddest thing happened.
A hummingbird flew into the porch area and hovered about four feet away from me and just hung there, looking right at me.
“Hi, it’s me. Rick,” I said. She hovered there a few seconds longer before she flitted away, disappearing into the pine trees.
My wife was laughing at this little exchange, but I honestly think that little bird knew. She knew that I had done something nice for her and she just wanted to buzz in and say howdy. We’ve been feeding birds in our backyard forever but we’ve always had a hard time attracting hummingbirds. Until now, that is. Now they come into our garage and hover in for close-ups.
Yup. She knew. At least that’s what I’m telling myself.
So do me a favor, OK Ruby? Quid pro quo. I took out the pine needle; you talk to the other birds and see if you can get them to stop messing up my truck, OK?