This story has a happy ending. (I promise.)
A text message:
Surely, a 10 x 12 door open to the waning sunshine will be enough to get the bird out before long.
Is fifteen minutes long enough? Another text:
Apparently having a hummingbird trapped in your garage is a common enough thing that YouTube videos are made and blogs are written about it. I read about people using rakes, umbrellas, even the bird feeder to coax a bird out.
No reply? I grab our bird feeder and recruit Camryn to join in the rescue operation.
That’s when we realize the difference between our situation and the ones everyone brags about online: Our garage has an 18-foot ceiling.
The real problem: When a hummingbird is trapped inside, its instinct is to fly up. And when you turn the lights out, flying up means that it beats its wings against the ceiling panels. (Most people report that the little guys will exhaust themselves in a matter of hours.)
By the time we get to the shop (a 30-second drive down the hillside), Micah’s already tried a few things:
- Throw paper towels into the air to divert the bird’s flight toward the door.
- Turn off all the lights. Shine a flashlight toward the opening in the side of the building.
Over the next two-and-a-half hours, we improvise more:
- Play bird sounds.
- Climb a 24-foot extension ladder with the feeder in one hand. Avoid reaching out with your empty hand when the bird perches on the top of the ladder (as this would mean that you are no longer holding onto the ladder; come down before anxiety sets in).
- Talk to the bird; say things like “But we’re best friends, remember.”
- Use a red dustpan on the end of a broom handle to attract the bird. You may need to stand on the step ladder that sits atop the rolling table to get to a level where she can see you.
- Suspend the feeder from a piece of metal conduit. Hold it tight to the ceiling, steady until she lands on it and begins to drink. Slowly begin to lower the feeder, but don’t be surprised when the swaying spooks her back to the rafters.
- Make a net out of a metal rod and a large plastic bag. Stand on the sheer, the extension ladder, the ladder atop the table. If that doesn’t work, climb the metal wall beams. Turn off the lights. With the beam of a flashlight, guide the bird toward the net.
- Coat the inside of the net with sugar water (Brilliant, Cam.)
- Staple welding rod to the edge of the bag to keep it open.
- Get the bird in the bag once, pass it to the floor, juggle it toward the door, but don’t be surprised when she flies out and returns to the rafters (again).
- Oh, and be careful of the lights, the customer’s car on the rack, Simon’s dirt bike, the differential by the door, and everything else that dares to take up space in this bird sanctuary.
It is now midnight. A few feathers have fluttered to the floor. A few tears, too. She finally comes to rest above the car, out of reach. Perched. Settled. For the night. Nothing we do—not the light, not the feeder, not the sound of its best friend’s voice—is working anymore.
She’s tired. We’re tired.
Defeated, we head back to the house. Tuck into a restless night’s sleep. Resolve ourselves to whatever happens in the morning.
Seven o’clock can’t come fast enough.
“I’m gonna go open up my shop.” Micah takes the dirt bike down the hill.
I stumble to my own feet, pour two cups of coffee, grab an umbrella, and head to the shop via the path in the woods. We are back to square one.
Well, square one + one.
We’ve given her a taste from the feeder. We’ve concocted a net. We’ve learned how she responds to light, figured out the best way to climb to the ceiling. We’ve spent hours learning all that he needs to bring this story to its happy ending. (Remember, I promised.)
I take the last step off the mountain, onto the dirt-road drive, and look up just in time to see Micah walk out of the open door. His hand cupped at eye level, he opens it, and our flitty friend doesn’t hesitate.
She is rested. We are rested.
She takes off into the mountain morning air. We let out the breath we’ve been holding.