Unusually warm Autumn weather in the northern town of Prince George, British Columbia tempted a rufous hummingbird to stick around longer than normal. But when temperatures started to really drop and the hummingbird didn’t fly south one couple got worried.
Clive Keen, an editor with B.C. Birding magazine first noticed the bird when his wife Susan pointed him out in their backyard. It was early October, two months later than the time most rufous hummingbirds migrate south to warmer climes.
As it was relatively warm out, Keen wasn’t too concerned. But when he saw the bird again on October 26 after a snowfall and temperatures predicted to drop to 5 degrees Fahrenheit (-15 C) he knew the bird was in danger.
Keen turned to an online birdwatcher community for advice as to what to do to help the rufous who had so clearly overstayed his visit. The advice was to set up a birdcage with a hummingbird feeder inside it.
He posted a photo of their trap and wrote, “It’s snowing, and we’re attempting to catch a Rufous Hummingbird that should have been in Mexico a couple of months ago. Wish us luck.”
He later informed everyone it took three days but his wife (who was “absolutely heroic”) successfully caught the bird. That was only step one of Susan’s heroics because she next immediately drove more than 9 hours and 311 miles (500 km) south to Vancouver to get the bird south and to safety.
Keen wrote on Facebook, “Hummer now being driven south. Sue heroically staffed the trap for three days until finally succeeding. The RUHU was then transferred to a small cage with feeder etc installed; it seems perky still, in spite of sub-minus nights.”
Susan told CBC News that she released the hummingbird in a Vancouver park after finding a sheltered clump of trees where she could place the feeder. The couple hopes the bird survives the winter and returns to visit them in the Spring.
It’s a wonderful thing they did because the rufous hummingbird can use all the help they can get. Grouse Mountain Refuge for Endangered Wildlife has noted a steep decline in their numbers and wants the rufous added to Canada’s national list of species at risk.
At least this one rufous has a fighting chance of surviving thanks to the Keen’s compassionate efforts.