I ran inside and found Tom. "There's a Broad-billed out there with something on his bill! Can you help me trap him?"
Tom watched out the window until the bird reappeared. "The remote control on the trap is still not working," he said. (It got soaked in a ferocious thunderstorm last week and hasn't been the same since.) "Why don't we try luring him into the chicken coop?" Brilliant.
We hung two feeders, one in the doorway and another inside, and within minutes the desperate bird tried to drink from both feeders before flying toward the back of the coop. With a little gentle corraling from Tom, our patient was soon in hand.
|The bump is the head of a bee or wasp, shackling the bill and |
preventing the bird from feeding properly.
|A ring of raw, swollen bill tissue on the body side|
of the insect's head is a bad sign.
A hummingbird's bill is mostly living tissue, vulnerable to damage from the sharp edges of the insect's exoskeleton, decomposition of its tissues, or both. This bill looked bad, as though the tip might be necrotic. Removing the bird's handicap would not be easy or painless. A pang of dread clutched at my heart.
Armed with high-power reading glasses and banding forceps, I performed the removal as gently and quickly as possible. The bird cried as the crusty carcass came off in bits, and I kept apologizing for the pain I was causing him (he couldn't possibly understand, but it eased my own pain a little). Once it was off, a little blood welled up in the ring-shaped wound—a sign of healthy underlying tissue. He stopped crying and experimentally licked out his tongue. Definitely a good sign.
I washed the wound, applied a thin film of antibiotic ointment to the top and bottom of the bill (taking care to avoid the edges where it might get into his mouth), and gave him a long drink from a feeder. To recognize him if he visited us again, Tom and I banded, measured, and weighed him. He felt like nothing in my hand, and the scale confirmed that he had been slowly starving. Just 2.8 grams, compared to 3.2 to 3.7 grams for healthy, unencumbered male Broad-billeds that we have banded recently.
|The wound looks awful, but the pink color and slight bleeding |
are signs of healthy tissue.
Back outside, he lay in my hand for a few seconds before departing. Hummingbirds are tough, and this little survivor is welcome to stay in our yard as long as he needs to recuperate.