Peepers - The Little Hummingbird
Peepers was brought to me after she fell out of her nest. My son-in-law Rocky put her back in when he found her on the ground, but the next day she had fallen from her nest once again. She had two other siblings that were safely in the nest. Perhaps there wasn’t enough room for her so we decided to try to keep her alive. I took the tiny little bird home.
I held her and fed her sugar water from a syringe and cuddled her every little while all day long for 10 days. She slept in a margarine dish in a little cage. After calling the Audobon Society and finding out that hummingbird babies cannot survive on sugar water anymore than babies could survive on Kool Aid, I realized she needed the insects her mother would be giving her or she would soon die.
I took her out every day to the flowers in my yard and put her little beak inside them hoping she would find some small insect or at least get used to having her beak in flowers. I prowled sneakily around my neighbors flowerbeds with her in my hand searching for that little gnat or spider that I might grind up for her. For some reason my neighborhood seemed practically insect-free. I began getting frantic.
On the morning of the tenth day, Peepers seemed listless and I feared she was failing. Knowing that my daughter and son-in-law had a beautifully landscaped yard with lots and lots of plants and flowers, I took her back to where she was born to search for insects there. In their backyard, I gave her a little bath and took her from flower to flower. Rocky and Monica told me that I could watch her mother in the front yard feeding one of her siblings. We sat at a distance and watched the mother hummingbird feed her little one every 15 minutes. He was the same age but looked heartier than little Peepers who was pretty scruffy and had a slightly deformed neck from her fall.
We knew we could not nourish Peepers like her mom could and decided then and there that we would sneak little Peepers into a bush close to her sibling during the 15-minute interval in the mother’s feeding routine when she was gone, and sit back and see what would happen.
When the mother came back she flew by the branch Peepers was sitting on. She spied her and immediately did a classic “double-take,” turned and hovered in front of Peepers, then sat down next to her on the branch, leaning against her. She popped up and hovered in front of Peepers and began feeding her. Peepers was acting just like any wild hummingbird and opening up her mouth like she did to my feeding syringe. We silently cheered and remained at a distance watching as mom returned again and again for several hours. During this time when mom was away and we were talking, Peepers flew very close to us, perhaps recognizing the voices of her foster parents. When mom returned and saw her proximity to us she buzzed us unmercifully. We backed away from Peepers and her angry mom. That evening we feared the worst when we had to leave helpless Peepers out in the yard. The only flying she had accomplished was in my bedroom and she hadn’t learn to hover like a helicopter yet, just flutter around a little and land safely on my bed.
When morning came, Monica ran out to look for Peepers and found her in a watering trench. She picked her up and placed her on a branch in a bush and waited for signs of mom. Sure enough she soon returned and began feeding her and her sibling in her every 15 minutes.
What a happy ending for all of us! Peepers thrived and could be seen in Monica and Rocky’s yard for years to come. She could be recognized by her deformity and smallness. Peepers must have found a mate, because she could be seen with babies of her own. The best thing is she continued to regard us as friends and allow us to come pretty close to her. And so much for that old myth “The mother won’t take them back if they’ve been handled by humans.”
The 10 days I was Peeper’s foster mom gave me such joy and respect for nature, it is an experience I’ll treasure forever. Birds are such amazing creatures. If you would like to visit my remembrance of Beaky, the Cherry-Headed Conure that was a family member for 29 years, click here. I currently am anxiously awaiting the weaning of an African Grey baby parrot who I know will be my companion for many happy years to come.
This took place in July of 2001 and Peepers was still there in 2004