Stacey Cole's Nature Talks: Hummingbird predicament ended well

By STACEY COLE October 20. 2017 11:59PM
A female ruby throated hummingbird visits a feeder. (Courtesy)

Editor’s note: The following column was originally published in the New Hampshire Union Leader on Saturday, July 26, 1997.

HUMMINGBIRDS, being so small, can get themselves into all kinds of predicaments. Such a case was brought to our attention by one of our Milan readers, who wrote in part: “When my daughter called this week to tell me about her experience with two hummingbirds, I thought of you right away, so I asked her to write it up.”

Our reader’s daughter lives in Lunenburg, Vt., and the following letter was enclosed: “On Wednesday, June 4, at 8:15 p.m., I went to my shed which is attached to the house to turn off the lights. There I saw two female ruby-throated hummingbirds flying around the three light bulbs in the shed. I turned the lights back on and once again they started flying around the lights, much the way a moth would do. Once again I turned out the lights and once again they flew straight up and were banging against the ceiling. I could see they were losing feathers and were obviously in trouble. That’s when I called my husband, Alan, for assistance.

“Alan came out armed with a small fish net and climbed onto a chair. After several attempts, he was able to capture one of the birds in the net. He took it outside and released it. That bird seemed fine. In the meantime I watched the second little bird. It flew into a corner and became tangled up in some cobwebs. It immediately fell onto a shelf, unable to move its wings. Alan picked up the little bird and removed the cobwebs from its wings and tail. It lay in his hand seemingly unafraid, but quite listless. I remembered seeing an article in a magazine where a hummingbird was fed from a spoon until it retained its strength. I got a teaspoon and put some nectar from their feeder in it and held it to the bird’s beak. At first there was little response except for the blinking of its eyes. Then we could see that her throat was working furiously — she was drinking! Suddenly she sat up and started twittering and preening herself. Apparently Alan had removed all the cobwebs. She tested her wings three times, lifted off Alan’s hand about four inches, then landing again. Then, with a final “tweet,” she flew straight up into what was by now a mostly dark sky.

“I would be hard put to remember a more rewarding experience of helping one of God’s little creatures.”

- - - - -

One of our Londonderry readers told of two puzzling but somewhat similar sightings. She wrote in part: “We have a question that’s driving me nuts! Last week we saw a woodchuck in the back yard with a rather long, red tail. Then we started seeing a big fat gray squirrel (raiding our bird feeder, of course) with a big old, very red tail! What do you make of this? We don’t have red squirrels here in the middle of Derry, and I doubt if they’d crossbreed anyhow. I’ve also seen many a woodchuck but never one with a long, red tail. I grew up in the woods and have seen a lot, but this is just plain strange.”

Later, a suggestion as to what the mystery squirrel might be arrived from a Lyndeborough reader who wrote: “That red-tailed squirrel was probably a fox squirrel. They’ve been moving north to our area. We had lots of trouble with a pair of them in the attic until a stray cat decided to stay around and chased them away.”

Stacey Cole, Nature Talks columnist for more than 50 years, passed away in 2014. If readers have a favorite column written by Stacey that they would like to see reprinted, please drop a note to Jen Lord at

AnimalsNature TalksGeneral NewsMilanLyndeboroughPhoto Feature

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