Hummingbirds “trapped” in garages and other structures

Ruby-throated Hummingbird at honeysuckle

Hummingbirds are easily attracted to brightly colored objects. To them, a dangling red object in your garage may represent flower and food! Hummingbirds can easily get “trapped” inside a structure like a garage, and its imperative to help them find their way back outside before they become exhausted.

A beautiful South Dakota summer evening, and thus I was out doing yard work last night.  As I typically do when I’m outside, I had the garage doors open, even as I worked in the backyard.  After cleaning up some branches from a tree I’d trimmed, I came in the back door of the garage and immediately saw a hummingbird hovering in the garage, near the door.  As I approached he (a male Ruby-throated Hummingbird) was a little confused as to the way out, but fortunately he did manage to find the door and head out.

The timing of this was interesting, in that just yesterday I came across this story of a hummingbird “trapped” in a fire station, with the firemen rescuing it and feeding it sugar before sending it on its way.  Unfortunately it’s not that rare to have a hummingbird trapped in a garage or other structure.

A couple of years ago, I again was working outside, returned to the garage, and saw a hummingbird flying around.  Our garage roof is rather high, perhaps 15 feet to the ceiling.  However, the doors themselves are the standard 7-8 feet high.  Hummingbirds seem to have difficulty with structures such as this.  They become attracted to something in the garage and come in the open door, but their first instinct to get out seems to be to head upwards.  Once they do so and get above the height of the garage opening themselves, they seem to get “stuck”, and aren’t able to understand the way back out through the garage door.

In the incident two years ago, it was very disheartening to watch the hummingbird (again, a male Ruby-throated Hummingbird) quickly wear itself out as it flew madly around the garage, trying to find a way out.  All my efforts to “shoo” it out through an opening failed, as did efforts to lure it to a lower height with a hummingbird feeder and flowers.  “Out” for it seemingly meant “up”, and it soon became so tired that it perched on a wire going to my garage door opener, refusing to move. It was my wife who saved the day.  She got a very long feather duster with a long extendable handle, and moved the feathery end up towards the hummingbird.  The exhausted hummingbird was so tired it didn’t want to fly, but it did eventually cling to the feather duster.  Very slowly and carefully, my wife lowered the feather duster and moved outside through the garage door.  The hummingbird was still so tired it didn’t want to move, but after resting for perhaps 10 minutes on the feather duster, it finally did fly off…hopefully to find a nectar source to feed on.

Having a hummingbird trapped in your garage or other building definitely isn’t a rarity!  It can be disheartening and frustrating to try to make the hummingbird understand where “outside” is.  One thing you can do to prevent a “trapped” hummingbird is to remove any attractant within a open structure.  Do you have a cord that dangles down from your garage door opener, a manual release?  Chances are the end of that cord has a red ball or other such component.  My garage door openers both had red plastic balls on the end, and to a hungry hummingbird, such a dangling device potentially means “flower” and “nectar”.  I removed the red balls from my garage door openers and replaced them with large plain weights in the hopes of lowering the chances of hummingbirds flying into the garage.

You’re not alone if you have a hummingbird “trapped”in your garage!  If it happens to you, don’t wait for the bird to find its own way out, do everything you can to “assist” the bird in finding the way outside.  It doesn’t take long for a trapped hummingbird to burn through its energy supply and become exhausted, and without help, a trapped hummingbird can easily (and quickly) perish.

20 comments on “Hummingbirds “trapped” in garages and other structures

  1. Bea

    We live in a third floor apartment that has a stairway to get to our hallway. The stairs are open for the first floor and as they wrap around the second they’re enclosed by a wall and the third floor there’s a massive window on that same wall. Somehow the hummingbirds are flying into the structure, past the second floor and to the window. We see dead birds a few times a week and we are at a loss of what to do because the window is too far away to reach from the stairs, not even a rake would reach far enough to lure it away.
    I was hoping to find any ideas but most posts are about being stuck in garages. Please if you have any ideas I would really appreciate it, it’s heartbreaking to see these beautiful birds drop dead so often because of the design of the building.

    1. TSohl

      Oh no! Is it always hummingbirds, or other birds as well? With hummingbirds, you can try to avoid attracting them by avoiding red or other “attractive” items. For example…when we had the one in our garage, I’ll bet anything it was attracted by the little cords dangling down from our garage door openers. Both sides had a bright red thing weighting down the bottom of the cord. I think the Hummingbirds were attracted to it, and thus came in the garage.

      The problem, as it sounds like your’e finding out, is they go in, then go up, but can’t figure out how to go back down. For us it was much simpler. One flew in, flew towards the top of our high garage ceiling, and couldn’t figure out how to even fly down 6 feet and out the door. For you they’d never find their way out, once they got up there.

      Is there anything by the open part of the stairway that is attracting them? Any red items, and flowers, anything that might get them close to that stairway? That’s the only thing I could think of, trying to remove something that attracts them in the first place.

      1. Bea

        It’s definitely only hummingbirds. I checked around and I didn’t see any bright colors. It’s cream colored walls with a deep forest green staircase. I practically see them on the daily. I think they somehow come into the structure and fly toward the window. If it were up to me I’d remove one of the glass panels on the window but the apartment is owned by a large corporation so I’m trying to think of alternatives to help these poor little creatures.

  2. Loren Dias

    I freed one.

    He was so frantic he wasn’t attracted to red or the feeder even when hanging stationary — probably too stressed to eat.

    I had to close all but one garage door and held a clear plastic bin 12″ from the ceiling and when he flew overhead I gently trapped him in the bin, then I lowered the bin less than 1″ from the ceiling with him inside it and slid the cover over the top gently. and slowly manuvered and secured the box as I moved down the ladder.

    Then I moved slowly at least 20 ft from the garage. He sat on the bottom until he saw the sky and got excited.

    I lifted the lid and he went up and away.

    I tried the rake trick too but had no success whatsoever.

    Good luck to anyone trying to figure this out.

  3. Jill

    I have a 14 ‘ ceiling- same problem… hooked a hummingbird feeder to end of broomstick and patiently led him out. It worked!!!! So happy

    1. Werner

      We just had a hummingbird bird stuck in our garage. Wouldn’t come to the broom or other items. We hung a feeder and once he found it we let him get his strength back. Then we put it lower and near the opening and he ate and then freed himself.

      Happy ending.

      1. DakotaBirder

        Nice! We tried that too, putting a feeder in the garage, but the last time we had one he just never showed any interest in it. That’s certainly a better approach if you can get it to work, as otherwise they just get too stressed out and tired.

  4. Jeffro

    I saved a ruby throated hummingbird from my garage attic. In total, he could have been stuck up there for over four hours, so we were worried about him. First I got up there to shoo him down and out, and my wife stood below to make sure he went the right way out. We are used to this happening with bugs, and birds. But this was our first hummer in the mancave. He zoomed towards me and all around my head in the cramped attic and did not appear frightened of me, per se. He was more concerned about being trapped. If one got that close to a finch or sparrow, the bird might drop dead in fright. Thus, the herding works on them. But not on hummers.

    My wife had a meeting and left me to do some research, where I found some great advice online, including yours. I tried the extended broom. Unfortunately, because there was so much other stuff in the attic, the bird had plenty of things to rest on, so getting him on an extended broom was fleeting. As soon as I moved it, he fled.

    So I took a sprig of salvia (the reason why he was in my yard in the first place) and affixed it to the end of a stick. In about five minutes he couldn’t stand hovering around it any more and dove in. I gently lowered him until I saw his brilliant ruby throat for the first time (it’s dark up in the attic). Once outside the front doors of my garage, he suddenly stopped feeding and hovered for an alarming moment, right in the garage door opening. “Don’t you dare go back inside the garage”, I said sternly. Turns out, I think he was just burping, because he went right back to the salvia sprig for another few minutes. This gave me leave to slowly pivot him up and away from the open garage doors.

    Finally, fully sated and rejuvenated, my new friend shot straight up and away. Free. A little later, as I sat out back, it did not take long for him to come back to my salvia in the back garden. Perhaps next year, I should move the salivia that is right outside the back doors of my cave. Perhaps, my wife will get to film the rescue next time.

    1. Anonymous

      Same thing worked for me today using Pineapple Sage! Thank you!

    2. Anonymous

      We tried for 2 hours … then I read your post and cut red salvia and tied it to the feather duster. She hopped on and we had her happy and out of the garage in about 2.5 seconds! Thanks for the idea!

    3. Anonymous

      Thank you I taped a zinnia to the end of a broom stick. Took a few times to get him to stay to lower it so he would see the feeder. Then he could be shooed and the machine door shut. Thanks for your input!!!!

  5. Anonymous

    The same method worked for me today. Used red zinnias
    From the yard. Thanks

  6. LoriPatterson

    Thank you so much for this post! I just used the idea to rescue a hummer in our big garage – the roof is 16-18 feet high. I used my orange ceiling fan duster, got up on a step ladder and the little girl hopped on and I lowered the duster out the door and she flew away. She had been in there over night – she must be exhausted and hungry! Prayers she finds the
    nectar in my backyard or my neighbors.

  7. Tua Tagovailoa

    I found one trapped in my barn just now. I left thinking he would find his way out because of the huge opening but when I came back he was still flying around, so I got worried he was about to die using all that energy up. I thought of mixing up some sugar water and trying to coax him to the feeder but he was too stressed to feed or go to it ,so I had to use plan b get my fishing net and try to catch him or guide him out I stood on a 8ft ladder with him buzzing around some how I think he new I was trying to help him because it’s a huge area and he was flying right over my head the net was too big for me to catch him in it but I did manage to guide him to the end of the barn were he went out the top where a small crack was. I don’t know how long he was stuck flying around but he had to exert a lot of energy. I watched him fly straight up until I couldn’t see him no more so I don’t know if he survived you’d think he would’ve flown to a tree or something but no he flew right into the sunset.

  8. Anonymous

    I just had one, a baby, die in my hand after being trapped in our garage for over 8 hours. Nothing I did to get him out worked. I left the doors open for the day and when I went to go let my dogs out I found him lying on the floor, barely breathing. I got the feeder and he stuck his tongue in it a few times, but then curled his little legs up and just died. Poor little fella. Broke my heart…They’re so cute!

  9. Andrea Leech

    Thank you for the idea of using a long feather duster! My tired little guy hung on and I was able to put him (and the duster) outside. Hopefully he’ll be gone after a little rest.

  10. Blaine Wright

    I googled this when I saw a hummingbird seemingly unable to leave my garage. I did what was recommended and it worked. Thanks for the post. Sometimes google is indeed a friend.

  11. Anonymous

    This was the first result when I searched after we had a hummingbird stuck in our garage for a few hours. It did not fly out on its own, and trying to usher it out was not working; it just kept trying to fly into the ceiling. So I took some hanging flowers I had in the backyard and held them above my head…the poor thing desperately fed at the flowers while I slowly walked outside. As soon as it saw the sky above it took off. Took less than a minute once I got the flowers!

  12. William Anspach

    We have a barn with 20 foot ceilings and have hummingbirds get stuck inside every summer. We use an extendable golf ball retriever with red cone flowers taped to it. It takes about 5 minutes holding the flowers stationary near the bird. Once the bird attaches, very slowly lower the bunch down toward the open door. Works every time!

  13. Anonymous

    Thanks for the idea of using a hummingbird feeder with sugar water. First high near ceiling, then lowering it after the hummer finds it. Gradually moving towards the door. Finally the outdoors became more attractive and she flew off… success!

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