Thursday, April 6, 2017

In My Hand

Once we lived on ten acres of wooded hillside. The spacious windows in our split level native stone home looked up and down the hills that were dotted with gnarly old Black Jack Oaks. One day while sitting at the window watching the birds at the feeder I noticed a hummingbird that seem to be struggling at the sweet water feeder.  The hummingbird’s wings fluttered, then its tiny body fell slightly, as if it couldn’t back out of the feeder.  I soon realized that the bird’s tiny beak was stuck in the feeder.

I rushed to the rescue. Upon climbing the kitchen ladder I noticed that large black ants filled the feeder. The hummingbird’s beak apparently had stuck an ant inside the sweet water and couldn’t pull back out. I watched the tiny bird fight to back out. Slowly, I lifted by arm and hand to the bird.  Placing my hand around the tiny bird to help in some way, I held it still and felt the beating heart hammering in a body the size of my thumb. But nothing I could do helped. At last, I pulled the hummingbird away from the feeder breaking his beak in the process.

I cried for the injured bird, and screamed and kicked the dirt at the black ants who’d caused this pain. I carried the tiny bird in the palm of my hand for a few minutes, feeling his heart beat and tiny flutters of his wings before he died. Then I placed him in my pink bougainvillea growing in the back yard.

With tears running down my cheeks I thought of an old story about the Elephant and the Hummingbird.

Once when elephant went walking through the jungle he saw a tiny hummingbird lying flat on its back along the path.  The bird’s feet were raised up into the air.
“What on earth are you doing?” chuckled the elephant?
Hummingbird replied, “Didn’t you hear? The sky might fall today and if that should happen, I’m ready to do my part to hold it up.”
Elephant looked upwards and saw the heavy gray clouds. Then he laughed and mocked at the tiny bird, “So you think those tiny feet of yours could hold up that sky?”
“No, not alone I can’t, but with a little help from my friends we can. What will you do elephant?"

* Thank you to Jim Smith, Alex Beury, and Carol Torpey for these lovely hummingbird pictures. 


  1. Lovely story you shared. A few weeks ago we came home and found a hummingbird lying on my dog's bed in the house. We thought it was dead but when we approached her, she began to fly and hit the wall, getting up every time. Finally, perched on the TV my husband who is very unsteady with Parkinson's calmly picked it up and steadily walked outside, petted it, and set it down. It flew away and now we recognize it feeding at our feeder. He needed that as much as that sweet hummingbird needed him. jhr

  2. Wonderful story and beautiful pictures. mb

  3. What a sweet sad story. At least you freed him and held him with love. jr

  4. A few years ago, a hummingbird got into the outbuilding and wouldn't go back out. The large door was open, but he just kept flying around toward the back. I got a large fishing net of Bill's from his boat and help it up. The hummingbird flew into it and go stuck. Then I carefully took it outside and released it from the net. Worked pretty well.

    I love those little birds. I have been thinking about when to put out my feeder this month. nv

  5. That story broke my heart, Letty. We enjoy the hummingbirds in our yard. I put vaseline on the top of our feeder to keep the ants at bay -- it works! We've been watching doves build a nest, lay eggs and cover them until a crow came and destroyed everything. It's hard sometimes to be a witness to nature. Thanks for telling your story.

    1. Thank you Martha. Nature is so intriguing but painfully sad sometimes for each of us.