TulsaPets Magazine September 2022

September / October 2022 • TulsaPets 37 A Matter of Perspective Hummingbirds Are Unique in the Avian World by Kim Doner | Photos by Kathy Locker A s a primarily avian rehabber, I’ve hosted a broad variety of compro- mised critters throughout the years, one experience in particular defining broad . I had gotten a call from Forest Trails Animal Hospital, where most of Tulsa’s ailing wildlife is treated. They were about to remove a pin from the shoulder of a bald eagle. Would I be interested in helping? Really? REALLY? I was there in a heartbeat. The raptor had fully healed and was ready for physical therapy at Grey Snow Eagle House aviary. On the table lay the bird, out cold, and I positioned the healed wing so a drill could unwind the support screw. In a few minutes, the deed was done, and the eagle was crated to slowly awaken from the anesthesia. Eagles appear enormous when they fly over your head, but holding the wing of one certainly gives greater perspec- tive to their true size and power. But then came another, even more profound revelation inside a tiny box, about three by five by three inches. It was a dam- aged hummer, one wing lowered. The shift from observing an eagle’s wing to that of a hummingbird felt like trading alternate realities. I thought of their flight patterns. Eagles flap, in a mostly up-and- down pattern, gaining altitude through pumping. The wings of a hummingbird are entirely different; they form a figure-eight rotation and circle from the shoulder as much as 80 rounds per second. I said per SECOND. Wow, right? I’ll give you a moment to absorb that. This exceptional feat allows hummers to do what no other bird can: They can move in any direction and can hover in midair at will. The Bird in the Box The bird in the box beeped at me, laying as big a stink eye on me as something two inches big can do. I figured he would be hungry and thirsty by now; hummingbirds’ caloric needs are amazing, but they burn through as fast. Their main diet is tiny bugs, which provide protein and fat to their sys- tems, and nectar gives hydration and carbs. That is something they need every 10 to 15 minutes, so I had to hustle to get him home and set up. At the least, he was thirsty. Many bird lovers are dedicated about hummingbird feeders and purchase tons of red nectar mix to leave for the hummers — but not all are aware that the dyes aren’t the best for the birds. It’s recommended to mix your own with a ratio of one part sugar to four parts water; store it in the fridge for several weeks if you make too much. Next, don’t fill your feeder for the first few rounds; instead, fill it to about a third and hang it out to observe if it’s being drunk from at all. Remember, not only hummers but woodpeckers and raccoons will happily use your feeder too. Also remember this is not food. It’s like a sports drink — they get hydration and energy so they can hunt. Any captive bird will need a specially concoct- ed supplement or it will slowly starve to death (maintenance is a big reason they are seldom found in zoos). Last, please, please clean the feeder well! Pop off all the little plastic parts, check for any mold growth, and do a thorough job with vinegar. The only thing worse than a hummingbird arriving with a torn rotator is one dying from a mold or fungal infection Tiny feet grip a small skewer. This recovering male humming- bird’s left wing hangs a little low, indicating a shoulder injury.