The Schreibers feed everything that wanders into their yard. Various types of feeders for chipmunks, squirrels and birds are sprinkled throughout their lawn, perfectly placed for their window-watching pleasure. Come fall they take down most of their feeders as the birds begin to migrate south, but this fall one hummingbird seemed to stick around and the couple ended up saving its life.
The hummingbird feeders at the Schreibers’ stay up until early October to ensure full bellies for the males who typically migrate in August and the females who migrate in September. With the first few weeks of November unusually warm, the couple decided they’d keep the feeder up for the last few “stragglers,” Terry Schreiber said.
Eventually just one straggler remained. The cold weather was approaching and Terry’s concern for the health of the bird grew.
“He just kept coming, so of course we couldn’t take the feeder in and the colder it got, the more we had to have two feeders going so there was one always thawed,” she said.
While the Schreibers’ feeders were helping the hummingbird through the fall and they held onto hope that the bird would eventually move south, one thing was sure—the bird wouldn’t survive the winter.
Terry began calling around for some advice from an area bird expert and the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota.
The Schreibers were told they should be able to catch it, but with wing speed averaging 53 beats per second “it’s a piece of lightning,” Terry said.
With a scrap piece of a mesh screen, a little designing by Richard and some sewing by Terry, the two devised a cage to go around their hummingbird feeder, which allowed the bird to fly in, but not out. And on Christmas Eve the bird did just that.
“It was our little Christmas miracle,” Terry said.
With the hummingbird and feeder on Terry’s lap, the two set off for the wildlife rehabilitation center on Christmas Eve in the middle of a storm.
“I had this little bird fanning me all the way there,” she said.
After a brief evaluation, the center concluded that the little iridescent green bird was a male Ruby-Throated Hummingbird who most likely had not matured enough to migrate.
The bird was transferred to an independent rehabilitator who will care for it through the winter and return it to the area in the spring where it will be released.
“It’s possible he’ll be catching a flight down to a warmer climate this winter. I’m picturing him there with his little martini and his seat fully reclined,” Terry joked.
Others may not have taken particular interest in the life of one little bird or spent their Christmas Eve transporting an animal to safety, but the Schreibers couldn’t stand to see the bird suffer, Terry said.
With Terry’s recent cancer diagnosis, the hummingbird brought some joy to an otherwise challenging year.
“We’ve ever since been saying to ourselves, ‘we saved a life, we saved a life,’” she said.
And perhaps the bird will make its way back to the Schreiber yard and the same feeder, once it has matured and the weather has warmed.