Inquisitive hummingbirds are likely to investigate any potential food source, and their curiosity can get them in trouble when they become trapped indoors without knowing how to get back out. If you have a hummingbird in the house, however, it is easy to help help them escape safely.
Where Hummingbirds Get Trapped
Hummingbirds will explore different areas of the yard, and anywhere there is red – whether it is natural or artificial – is likely to attract their attention.
When that happens, the birds can get trapped somewhere that isn't safe for them to be, such as:
- Garages - They may see the emergency door release or other red inside an open garage door.
- Sheds - Red tool handles, spare flower pots or bottle labels can attract them.
- Screen porches - Hanging flower baskets or other colorful decorations can tempt hummers.
- Skylights - They try to escape to the sky but don't know how to get around the glass.
- Play Houses - A brightly colored child's play house can attract a curious hummingbird.
- Houses - Once a hummingbird is in the house, they may fly to every window seeking escape.
When the bird first realizes it cannot get out, its survival instinct is to flight straight up higher, seeking an exit out of reach of potential predators or other threats. This can make it even harder for the bird to find its way safely out of an unknown spot.
Dangers of Being Trapped
When a hummingbird is trapped, it becomes stressed and frantic in the unfamiliar territory.
As the bird seeks to find a way out, it may run into windows or become tangled in screens or curtains looking for an exit. This can lead to injuries to its wings, feathers and bill, as well as trauma from collisions with glass. If the bird remains trapped for a long period, it will eventually exhaust itself and become even more stressed and vulnerable.
That stress could be fatal if the bird is not released back outside.
To Help a Hummingbird Escape
Acting quickly is essential to help a trapped hummingbird, no matter where it is lost and stuck. When you notice a trapped hummingbird…
- Remove young children and pets from the area. Every extra scary thing, even if it isn't really a threat to the bird, will stress the hummer even more. This includes anything that may move quickly or make extra noise. Older children may want to watch the rescue operation, but they should remain still and quiet, out of the hummingbird's way. Similarly, turn off televisions and music, and stop ceiling fans that may injure hummingbirds.
- Close off any additional places where the bird could become trapped, such as doors to other rooms that could lead the bird into another prison. This includes closet doors or cupboards, especially if there are red objects inside these spaces that may lure hummingbirds further away from the exit. Hide any other red objects if possible, such as throw pillows, toys or decorative items, so the bird is not confused even more.
- Open all possible, easy exits from the area, including doors and windows, and remove window screens so the bird can easily get out. A frantic hummingbird will quickly fly to different areas investigating escape routes, and providing many routes will help the bird exit more quickly. Prop doors open if necessary.
- Turn off all lights to make the exits as bright and attractive as possible. Curtains should be opened if they are over an open window, but tied back so they are not in the bird's way. If windows cannot be opened, then curtains, shades or shutters should be closed to hide that false exit from the scared hummingbird.
- Place a hummingbird feeder near the largest, easiest exit to attract the bird's attention and lure it back outside. If there is no feeder available, use anything with bright red color, including a basket of flowers, a piece of clothing, a towel or a child's red toy. Ideally, place the lure just outside the exit to lead the bird safely out where it will see the complete escape route.
- If necessary, use a broom or other long-handled object to gently shoo the hummingbird toward the exit, but do not touch the bird in the process. Instead, make the path to the exit the safest place for the bird to be, and it will eventually follow that path and find its way out.
- Watch the bird carefully to see when it exits. If the bird is disoriented, it may attempt to return to the more familiar area where it was trapped, even risking getting trapped again. After it is safely away, quickly close up the entrances and exits so it cannot return to the area where it was trapped.
- If possible, note how the bird got inside the house or other unsafe area in the first place, and take steps so that cannot happen again. This may include removing red objects that could entice a hummingbird, securing or repairing screens or making sure doors close securely.
Picking Up a Hummingbird
As a last resort, it may sometimes be necessary to pick up a hummingbird to help it exit out of a building. If the bird has exhausted itself but been unable to find its own way free, it may perch and could be picked up and taken outside. These birds are delicate, however, and it is important to never use a net or towel to wrap around them because of the risk of injury or tangling. Simply cup your hand around the bird loosely so it cannot fly away, but without applying pressure that could cause injuries. Take it outside (closing the door behind you) and bring it directly to a feeder or favorite nectar-producing flower for a drink. If necessary, gently position the bird so its bill is right in the feeding area. It may take the hummingbird several minutes and several sips to regain its strength and energy, but it will eventually fly away. After handling the bird, wash your hands thoroughly.
Note: Even with the best intentions, it is a violation of the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act to keep a hummingbird captive, even for just a short period. They are protected species and must be released into the wild immediately. If the bird appears injured or does not regain its strength, it is best to contact a licensed bird rescue center for appropriate assistance.
More Tips for Helping Trapped Hummingbirds
If trapped hummingbirds are a regular problem in your garage, shed or house, it is best to look for simple solutions instead of staging frequent rescues.
- Removing all possible red lures the birds could see from outside. This includes the emergency release handle for the garage door, red cans or labels, red tools or toys and spare hummingbird feeders. Cover, paint or store these items out of sight so they will not tempt lost hummers.
- Adding screens to any openings that can easily be covered, including windows. Make it a habit to close screen doors to minimize the chance of a hummingbird coming inside, and remove hummingbird feeders that may be near doorways or other potential entrances.
- Removing or relocating red flowers or plants near doors and windows that are creating problems with lost hummingbirds. If the plants are further from access points, fewer birds will find their way into inappropriate spaces.
Most importantly, act quickly to help a trapped hummingbird whenever possible. Because of these birds' high metabolic rate and the extreme energy they burn in frantic flight trying to escape, they can exhaust themselves in as little as a few minutes. Every minute counts to return them safely to a friendly hummingbird garden.