How to Care for a Hummingbird

How to Care for a Hummingbird
If you are on a bird-watching trip or hike and spot an injured hummingbird, you may wonder what to do. The first thing is to make sure the bird needs rescuing. If you determine that the hummingbird does need help, take the bird to a wildlife rescue as soon as possible. If you cannot get the hummingbird to a rescue right away, you will have to care for the bird yourself. Hummingbirds must eat often, so you do not have time to spare.


Difficulty: Challenging

Things You’ll Need:
  • Box or basket with air holes Tissues or napkins Heat lamp Eyedropper 1/4 cup white granulated sugar 1 cup lukewarm water 10 mealworms 1/2 tsp. mockingbird food 1/2 tbsp. Esbilac Pinch of Vet-Nutri
  • Box or basket with air holes
  • Tissues or napkins
  • Heat lamp
  • Eyedropper
  • 1/4 cup white granulated sugar
  • 1 cup lukewarm water
  • 10 mealworms
  • 1/2 tsp. mockingbird food
  • 1/2 tbsp. Esbilac
  • Pinch of Vet-Nutri
Step 1
Evaluate the hummingbird for injuries. If you find a baby hummingbird on the ground, look in the nearest tree for a nest. If you locate one, look inside for evidence of an insect invasion (numerous insects). If an insect invasion is not present, gently grasp the bird around his body and place him back inside the nest. Wait for an hour to see if the mother hummingbird appears, but keep your distance so that you do not scare her away. Once you see the mother, it is safe to leave the baby alone.
Step 2
Place an injured, homeless or newly hatched hummingbird in a box or basket lined with tissues or napkins. Make sure the box or basket has plenty of air holes. Do not use cloth---the hummingbird's nails can easily become stuck in the cloth. Immediately transport the hummingbird to your home or another facility where care can be provided.

Newly hatched hummingbirds that do not have feathers cannot regulate their body temperatures. Place the container holding the baby bird in a warm but not hot place, and keep a close eye on the bird. The outside temperature of a baby hummingbird should be about 85 degrees. It is equally important to make sure the bird does not overheat. If you see the baby bird breathing with her mouth open or neck outstretched, she is too hot. Place the hummingbird in a cooler area. Once you get the newly hatched bird to an area where you can provide better care, place a heat lamp 5 to 6 inches above the box. Carefully monitor the box to make sure it does not get too hot.
Step 3
Call a wildlife rehabilitation center for help. It is illegal for anyone other than a licensed wildlife rescue to keep hummingbirds, and it is extremely difficult to keep a hummingbird alive in captivity.
Step 4
Feed the hummingbird while you wait for a wildlife rescue or until you transport the bird to the rescue. Because hummingbirds have very fast metabolisms, it is essential that you feed the bird every 30 minutes.

Prepare a sugar-water mixture by adding 1/4 cup granulated white sugar to 1 cup lukewarm water. Place the sugar-water mixture into a clean eyedropper, then place the eyedropper over the hummingbird's beak. If the hummingbird is old enough, he will stick out his tongue and drink from the dropper. Allow the bird to drink from the dropper as long as she desires. Refill the eyedropper if necessary.

A young hummingbird will open his mouth wide instead of sticking out his tongue. To feed a young hummingbird, place one drop of the sugar water on the bird's tongue. Once the young bird has swallowed the sugar water, place another drop on her tongue. Feed a young hummingbird five drops of sugar water per feeding.

Wipe off any sugar water that spills on the bird's feathers with a cloth that has been moistened with warm water.
Step 5
Switch to a more substantial food if you have to care for the bird longer than 24 hours. A consistent diet of sugar water alone will lead to bone deformities and nutrient deficiencies. Call a licensed wildlife rescue for hummingbird food recommendations or use the following recipe recommended for hummingbirds by the Rainbow Wildlife Rescue in Texas:

1 cup water
1/4 cup white granulated sugar
Insides of 10 mealworms (squeeze the mealworms to release the insides)
1/2 tsp. of mockingbird food
1/2 tbsp. Esbilac
Pinch of Vet-Nutri

Blend all the ingredients together in a blender or food processor. Feed the hummingbird the blended food through an eyedropper every 30 minutes.

Tips & Warnings

Gently grasp a hummingbird around his body and put one finger over the tail to prevent him from flying.

Article Written By Rose Kivi

Rose Kivi has been a writer for more than 10 years. She has a background in the nursing field, wildlife rehabilitation and habitat conservation. Kivi has authored educational textbooks, patient health care pamphlets, animal husbandry guides, outdoor survival manuals and was a contributing writer for two books in the Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader Series.

Don't Miss a Thing!

All our latest outdoor content delivered to your inbox once a week.



We promise to keep your email address safe and secure.