Inquisitive hummingbirds are likely to investigate any potential food source. And their curiosity can get them into trouble when they become trapped indoors without knowing how to get back out. If you have a hummingbird stuck in your house or another structure, it's important to know how to help it escape safely.
Where Hummingbirds Get Trapped
Hummingbirds like to explore different areas of a 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 the following:
- Garages: They might be attracted to the emergency door release or other red spots inside an open garage door and get stuck inside when the door closes.
- Sheds: Red tool handles, flower pots, bottle labels, and more can tempt them inside and leave them trapped when you close the door.
- Screened-in porches: Hanging flower baskets or other colorful decorations can lure in the birds through an open door or hole in the screen, and they might not know how to exit.
- Playhouses: A brightly colored child's playhouse can attract a curious hummingbird, and it might not be able to find the exit.
- Houses: A hummingbird might accidentally fly into a house through an open door or window with no screen and not know how to get back out.
When the bird realizes it can't find its way out, its survival instinct will be to fly up high, seeking a spot out of the reach of potential predators and other threats. However, this might lead it farther away from an exit point.
Moreover, when a hummingbird is trapped, it often will become stressed and frantic in the unfamiliar territory. As the bird seeks to find a way out, it might run into windows or become tangled in screens or curtains. This can lead to injuries to its wings, feathers, and bill as well as to 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.
Helping a Hummingbird Escape
Acting quickly is essential to help a trapped hummingbird. If you spot a trapped bird, do the following:
- Remove young children and pets from the area. Any extra commotion, even if it's not actually a threat to the bird, can further stress it. Similarly, turn off televisions and music, and stop ceiling fans that might injure the bird.
- Close off any additional places where the bird could become trapped, such as doors to other rooms, closet doors, and cupboard doors. Hide red objects if possible, such as throw pillows, toys, or decorative items, so the bird is not further confused.
- Open all potential exits from the area, including doors and windows. Remove window screens, and prop open doors if necessary. A trapped hummingbird will often frantically fly to different areas to search for escape routes, so providing many routes will help the bird exit more quickly.
- Turn off all indoor lights to make the exits as bright as possible. If a window can't be opened, then close your window treatments to prevent the bird from thinking it's an exit and running into the glass.
- Place a hummingbird feeder just outside the most accessible exit to attract the bird's attention and lure it back outside. If there is no feeder available, use anything with a bright red color, including a basket of flowers, piece of clothing, towel, or toy.
- If necessary, use a broom or other long-handled object to gently shoo the hummingbird toward the exit. However, don't touch the bird in the process.
- Watch the bird carefully when it exits. If the bird is disoriented, it might attempt to return to where it was trapped. So after it's safely outside, quickly close all the entrances.
- If possible, note how the bird got inside in the first place, and take steps so that doesn't happen again. This might include removing red objects, repairing screens, or making sure doors close securely.
Picking Up a Hummingbird
As a last resort, it might be necessary to pick up a hummingbird to help it exit a building. If the bird has exhausted itself, it might perch somewhere. Then, you might be able to pick it up and take it outside. However, note that these birds are delicate. Never use a towel or net to carry them because of the risk of an injury due to tangling.
Loosely cup your hand around the bird so it can't fly away, but don't apply heavy pressure. 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 might take the hummingbird several minutes and several sips to regain its strength, but it should eventually fly away. After handling the bird, wash your hands thoroughly.
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. If a bird appears injured or doesn't regain its strength, contact a licensed bird rescue center for assistance.
Preventing Trapped Hummingbirds
If trapped hummingbirds are a regular problem on your property, look for preventative solutions instead of staging frequent rescues. Try the following:
- Remove all potential red lures the birds can see from the outside. Cover, paint, or store these items out of sight.
- Add screens to any openings that can easily be covered. Make it a habit to close screen doors to minimize the chance of a hummingbird coming inside.
- Remove hummingbird feeders near doorways or other potential entrances.
- Remove or relocate red flowers or other plants that attract hummingbirds near doorways or other potential entrances.