What to do when hummingbirds get in trouble

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The Eastsider seems to have been on the bird beat recently, with coverage of Echo Park water fowl and backyard hawks. Today’s bird news comes from Silver Lake, where Sandy Driscoll recounts how – with the help of a hummingbird rescue group (who knew?), a fruit picker and shoebox –  she spent Saturday night helping out a hummingbird trapped inside her home:

“I was surprised to see a hummingbird had flown into my home and had trapped himself in the upper reaches of my entry skylight …  20 feet up! I know that when birds find their way indoors, the best thing to do is usually leave windows open, and they will eventually fly out.  What I didn’t know, however, is that this does not apply to hummingbirds.”

Click on the link for rescue details.

The little bird had flown to the highest point in my home, and for 2 hours had been frantically trying to fly out through my skylight screen which is not removable.

Nothing on the Internet offered any solutions…..only little bits of info that made it seem very unlikely that I would be able to save him.   However, there was a contact number for  LA Hummingbird Rescue!  Soon after leaving  a short explanatory message,  my call was quickly returned by Terry.

She gave me a quick and concise lesson in hummingbirds, and said my particular situation was pretty dire.    Hummers always  fly UP and do not have a sense that tells them how to fly down and out.  They eat every 30 minutes, so he was getting weaker very quickly, and would soon die if he continued to fly back and forth, resting for only 2-3 seconds on a short ledge.

Hummers will not fly at night, and as it was quickly getting dark, he seemed to be doomed.  However, she gave me some excellent instructions!   Somehow I had to create a perch on which he could rest, and it had to be in the skylight area, as he would not come down.  Perching is how they sleep, and once he was safely perched and asleep for a while, I could lower the perch, attempt to capture him, put him in a Kleenex-lined shoebox and quickly feed him sugar water through a dropper.  He would need that energy to survive the night.  It was important to keep him in the box throughout the night, and in the bathroom, in case he got out.  In the morning, give him more sugar water for his flight home (wherever that is!) and release him.

It all seemed daunting and pretty improbable, but I did everything she suggested, even rigging a perch by using an old fruit picker basket mounted on a 10 ft. pole, and perched that on a 10 ft. extension ladder!   As you can tell by the photos and notes below, this story has a happy ending!

Photos by Sandy Driscoll


  1. I love hummingbirds in my yard. They kill all the bumble bees flying past my face. Flying in and outta my ear, humming their song, just like they used to. Had a hummingbird statue out by my pond, and they’d lay there talking to him about bees and honey all day. Dug that pond up, made some money, sold some water all over town! Hummingbird all moved away after that. Now there’s bees all over.

  2. I’m glad you’re story had a happy ending. I love these things. I’d see them so rarely back east but they’re everywhere in Echo Park. Had a nest outside my back window until the landscapers pruned the trees and destroyed it. Still pretty upset about that.

  3. What a wonderful ending. I have a small cementary of hummingbirds in my backyard. In the last 3 years I have buried 4 that have hit the sliding glass doors so I have put up some solar shades in front of the windows and that has helped. I am glad to know of the Hummingbird Rescue information. On a couple occasions before I put up the solar screens up, a couple of hummers hit the glass but were still alive. I panicked but as I was on the phone with a friend of ours that is a geologist/naturalist on both occasions they flew away before I got back to them. There seems to be a hummer war going on in my back yard lately. Yesterday I counted 5 battling to get to the feeders and the year prior I counted 11 at one time. I love hummingbirds and love learning about them.

  4. Interesting that since I was able to rescue the hummingbird, there have been many more at my feeder today! A friend to whom I sent the story forwarded it and the photos to another friend in NY who publishes
    bird guides, and he identified it as a female Rufous Hummingbird!

    I was so fortunate to have contacted the rescue. I love hummers, too!

  5. I just had a hummigbird fly in to my loft and get trapped in a skylight, 20 feet up. I read the previous posts and created a perch using a ladder, and a broom so the little guy could rest. Then I accessed the roof using another ladder and luckily out of the eight skylights I have the one in question opens. Then it was just a matter of ripping the ancient bug screen and hummy flew away into the blue. The whole affair took almost an hour and so I sure hope he’s OK and happily sipping a flower nectar cocktail right now.

  6. Thank you for writing about this. I googled and found this article after a hummingbird got stuck in my skylight today. We were able to successfully rescue him and send him on his way.

  7. Janet Thompson

    What a relief that I could look quickly for some advice. We had a hummingbird fly into the living room of the lodge we are staying in, which has high beam ceilings. We couldn’t open the windows where the hummingbird was hovering mostly..he did perch occasionally on the chandelier, and the high ledge of the front windows. After reading the above responses we took a long stick, like a walking stick, and he perched on it pretty quickly. On the second try with the hummer perched, we moved him to freedom!

  8. Thank you for the info! I had a hummingbird trapped in my skylight. It’s recessed about 2 feet into the ceiling. I setup a perch for it to chill-out for a bit and give it some honey water. Eventually it sat on a handheld wooden T-perch and I lowered it slowly. The HB found its way out the sliding glass door.

  9. Great, thanks for this tip I had one stuck on my porch and we caught it to feed it and he finally was able to fly away again after about 4 hours of giving it food.

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