By Nicole Hamilton
Migration *must* be underway – I say that because in the last two days, I’ve had two birds fly into our garage and get confused, unable to fly out. I think our “regulars” already know the lay of the land around our house pretty well but as migrating birds come through, all things are new and they can get into these dangerous situations.
So, I thought I’d share this story in case it happens to you (and a hapless bird, just trying to get to points South).
The first was a Ruby-throated hummingbird. It was early evening on Friday and my husband, Gil came in and said to me – “We have a wildlife emergency in the garage.”
My heart sank and a thousand terrible images flashed through my head. Luckily, Gil had spotted this situation before it was too late.
This hummingbird was flying in circles around the light in the garage.
This sight brought home (so to speak) the issue that the American Bird Conservancy is working on with their Collisions Campaign. Birds are drawn to the light at night, circle them endlessly until they fall to the ground, and die of exhaustion.
Now, the light in our garage is no tower beacon but it seemed to provide the same point of confusion for this little bird.
So what to do? Nets and brooms? Nope – use of these can hurt the bird. Turn off the light in the garage and keep the garage door open.
I did that and the hummer was still a bit confused and clearly tired. Luckily it was almost dusk so it could see the daylight outside. Nonetheless, it did fall to the ground exhausted. I collected it in my hands and took it over to my hummingbird feeder. It rested for a moment and then flew to a nearby branch. Before it got dark, I saw it speed over to the feeder and have a nice energy drink. All was good.
Then on Saturday Bird #2 entered the garage.
Gil again was the spotter. In this case, it was a Prairie Warbler.
Both garage doors were open and no lights were on but it just couldn’t get the courage to fly down and out. It, like the hummer, kept flying up to the ceiling and staying high.
The bird was distressed. I was distressed. But calm prevailed…..
I made the garage as dark as possible, closing one of the doors and pulling down all the window shades. I also put a bowl of water and mealworms on the ground near the door in case that would entice it to fly down.
I also called the Wildlife Rescue League Hotline (703-440-0800) in case they had any other tips on how to help this bird. They concurred: Make the garage as dark as possible with the only light coming from the exit — Birds fly to the light.
Second step — leave the bird alone. This, of course, is hard because you worry and want to see the bird fly out. But I did – I went back to feeding the Monarch caterpillars that I’m raising.
Now, I should also mention that, if the bird had fallen with exhaustion, I was ready to call the rehabber back and get additional guidance. Luckily though, about 30 minutes later, I went back and checked the garage and it had flown out.
Phew! I was so relieved – and motivated to tell you this story.
Over coming weeks, I’ll be keeping the garage doors shut more and when they are open, I’ll be sure to keep a keen eye for any confused birds. Thank goodness Gil spotted these two. We wish them well on their great journey south.