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My Animal Rescue Story (And Another Reason to Hate Leaf Blowers!)

As I was walking to work Monday morning, I noticed a few people gathered around what appeared to be a leaf on the sidewalk. I figured that it must be somewhat interesting, so I walked up for a closer look once the people moved on. As it turns out, it was a tiny green hummingbird that was sitting on the ground, breathing very heavy. I could see that it was not able to fly. I felt really terrible for it and compelled to do something to help it out, but I wasn’t sure what I could do. So, I kept on walking. But, after just a few steps, I decided to go back and at least save the poor animal from being squished on the sidewalk.

I had never picked up a bird before, let alone a hummingbird, so I was very concerned. The hummingbird easily fit into my palm with room to spare. To be honest, I think it was somewhat happy that I picked it up, because I think it knew that it really needed help. I happened to be right by a little garden next to the Department of Education building, and thought that it would be safe to leave it there while I tried to find someone that could help it. I did consider taking it across the street to Capitol Park, but figured that there were too many predators there. Little did I know that it possibly would have been a better move.

When I got to the office, I did some Google searches hoping to find an agency to contact—but no luck. Most I found to be focused on cats and dogs. I e-mailed a few local friends and asked them if they knew of anyone. No luck.

I took a morning break and went to check on the bird. It was in the exact same place I left it—under a small tree mixed in with some leaves and grass up against a fence. A seemingly safe spot.

I had an errand to run at lunch, but checked on the bird on my way. Still fine.

When I was about to eat my lunch, I received a call from a friend that I had e-mailed earlier in the day. He said that he sent my e-mail plea around to his co-workers and received about 20 responses. From those responses, he picked out the best-sounding agency and graciously offered to call them for me. I said fantastic. I was feeling so optimistic at this point.

Then this is where the story turns sad… (but please read to the end)

On my way back to work, I walked past the garden. Immediately, I noticed something had changed. I walked up a little closer… and the ground previously covered with leaves and grass was now just dirt. No bird in sight.

I frantically started digging through some of the small piles of leaves left behind. I didn’t hold out much hope, because it looked like most of the leaves and grass were already collected by the leaf blowers. There were some leaves on the other side of the fence on property that I would have a very difficult time getting permission to access. I thought if the bird wasn’t swept up, it would be over there and nearly impossible to spot amongst the leaves. I searched for a few minutes, but unfortunately, I could not find the bird. I decided to give up and go back to work. I chalked it up as one more strong reason I hate leaf blowers (more on that later).

While at work, I received e-mails from people that were contacting places to help me. One place, Wildlife Care, contacted me to rescue the bird and I gave them the bad news. They told me what to do next time I faced this situation: pick up the bird; take it to an indoor location; keep it warm; place it somewhere like a bathroom, closet, or shoe box where it will be temporarily safe; and call them. I also learned that mammals cannot contract the diseases or mites that the birds may be carrying. So, that was reassuring.

A few hours later, feeling quite disheartened, I decided to go back and take one more look at the location. I searched a little more thoroughly this time as I was waiting for someone. With both of us looking, we couldn’t find the bird.

As I was leaving for the last time, something shiny and pink caught my eye. I went back and took a closer look. Low and behold, it was the hummingbird! Sadly, the bird was upside down with its head smashed against the wall. At first I thought it was dead, but I saw that it was breathing… barely.

I quickly picked up the bird and started heading directly to my apartment (I was only a few blocks away). I called Wildlife Care and asked them what I should do. They gave me some instructions on how to give it sugar water, hoping this would give it a burst of energy. They said that hummingbirds need nectar about every 20 minutes or so to keep up its metabolism, otherwise they lose energy and get into trouble. I shut the bird in our bathroom (so our cat wouldn’t get it!), put it in a shoe box, tried to give it sugar water, and waited for instructions on who I could get it to.

After about 15 minutes, I received a phone call from someone that lived in South Natomas (part of suburban Sacramento). I drove the bird with the shoe box open to the caretaker’s house. The bird wasn’t a big fan. In fact, it tried to fly away a few times but couldn’t, which I took trying to fly as a good sign. Still, the bird did not look so good.

I dropped it off at the caretaker’s house. She told me that I could call and find out how the bird was doing.

Today, I received a call from her. She told me that the bird had passed away about two hours after I dropped it off.

I really wasn’t surprised. The bird was in really poor shape. But, as I said before, I really felt compelled to do something and I’m glad I did. What an amazing experience it was to hold a hummingbird in my hand! They are truly beautiful creatures. I’ll probably never have the opportunity again. I really did not want to give it away, but I knew I had to so it had a chance to survive. Plus, I’d imagine it’s pretty impossible to keep a hummingbird as a pet. I’ll probably never look at a hummingbird the same way again.

The photo above was taken by photographer oskay on Flickr. I thought that it looked most similar to the bird I saw. I’m fairly certain that was an Anna’s hummingbird. Sadly, the most similar photo online to the bird I saw was actually a dead bird—probably because the bird I saw was in such poor shape. You can view that photo here.

So, you’re probably wondering why I posted this story on here? Well, this isn’t the first time I’ve encountered animals on the ground that shouldn’t be there while I was walking around Sacramento. This is a somewhat common occurrence for me on my walks here. Now I know that I really should pick up some of these animals and call a rescue agency to come and save them. There are too many predators around to not do something. We have many urban parks and tree canopied streets in the core of Sacramento. Naturally, we have many animals too and we should be mindful of them on our walking and biking trips. If you do encounter an animal in need of help, I highly recommend Wildlife Care Association – (916) 965-9453.

The other reason I mentioned this is because I absolutely hate leaf blowers! They are a serious problem here in Sacramento. We have the most amazing urban forest of any city I’ve visited, but the forest has its drawbacks. One is leaves on the ground. Most every block of sidewalks is cleared of leaves rather quickly—and I do agree that this is necessary because the leaves are very slick when they are wet—however, the negative externalities from clearing the leaves are quite significant.

Leaf blowers are almost always gas-powered here. Considering the number of leaf blowers constantly going in Sacramento, I’m sure this has an impact on air pollution. Not to mention noise pollution. I get so sick of listening to leaf blowers running all day long. Sometimes I like to take little catnaps at lunch, and many days its impossible to do so with all the noise!

So, what to do? Considering the extra time it would take, using brushes and sweeping is probably too costly for companies or property owners to implement. I don’t know enough about leaf blower technology to recommend much, but I’m so annoyed with them. Especially now—helping to contribute to the death of the little bird.

I deeply appreciate everyone’s help! Sorry that I don’t have more positive news to report.

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{ 1 comment… add one }

  • Val March 6, 2008, 9:51 am

    Jeez Eric, I was hoping that he was gonna make it. You were awesome to have taken the time to rescue him. Despite what Russ says.. I think you’re alright!

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