PULLMAN, Wash. - Weighing in at barely more than a dime, the outlook for the baby hummingbird didn't look good. He was found on the ground, clinging to life, after likely being blown from the nest during a heavy storm.
"I have had him now for a week and a half, and amazingly, the kid doesn't have any injuries," said Dr. Nickol Finch, a wildlife veterinarian at Washington State University's teaching hospital. "They have really high metabolism rates, so they have to eat a lot."
She says she's been feeding the little guy every 30 minutes and can't take any breaks.
"With their metabolism, a whole night without feeding can be almost too long to go," she said.
And while this isn't her first hummingbird, the age of this one makes it a challenge. He wasn't able to feed himself and wasn't able to fly when he first came in, and his feathers weren't fully in, but slowly, with the help of Finch, he's been figuring things out.
"They have the instincts, they just need some coaxing and a soft landing until they figure it out," she said.
She was tube feeding at first, but now is able to feed with a small syringe. He gets a nectar mix with sufficient protein.
"Most people don't realize that momma hummingbirds will bring in a lot of insects for their babies," she said, "protein is important, especially for a young one trying to grow, and grow in feathers."
Watching the small bird figure itself out, it's hard not to notice the rapidity of its breathing.
"His breaths are close to 200 a minute, and their heart beats 21 times per second," she said. "It literally sounds like their wings, a hum, it's that fast if you listen to them."
It's likely the little guy will remain in the hospital for the next week or two.
"It depends on how quickly figures out the whole hovering and eating at the same time thing," she said.
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