It's hard to believe that it's been nearly a year since I first met her, but one glance at her chart removes any doubt. Species: Anna's Hummingbird. Patient Number: 11-2241. Date of Admission: 08/15/2011. Yes, 11 months ago is really when she came into our care. It was undoubtedly the worst day of her young life because it began with an outdoor housecat using her as a toy. Fortunately, the cat did not take her life, but he did take some of her dignity by pulling out every one of her tail feathers.
Unfortunately, hummingbirds only replace their tail feathers once a year. While many birds will grow back traumatically lost feathers fairly quickly, this little hummingbird's body was stubbornly adhering to her annual molt cycle. Summer turned to fall and then fall into winter with no signs of new feather growth. By spring we were beginning to wonder if the little bird would ever regain the feathers she had lost, but in June her internal clock reached "tail feather replacement time" and they finally began to grow. As the tail feathers grew in, the hummingbird's flight went from that of a wobbly bumble bee to that of a precision flying machine. By mid-July she was finally ready to resume her life in the wild.
The hummingbird was released on July 17 at the PAWS Annual General Meeting. The staff, volunteers, board members, donors and other supporters that were present watched as she flew straight up out of her release box, hovered for a moment overhead and then disappeared into the trees. It was a very fulfilling moment for me not only because of the joy I felt at finally seeing the bird fly free, but also because I was able to share the experience with so many people whose support had made her care and eventual release possible.
If you too would like to help us in our efforts to care for both wild and domestic animals, please consider making a donation today. Thank you for your continued support!
- Kevin Mack, PAWS Wildlife Naturalist