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.

3 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.

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