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Your garage: A Hummingbird’s worst enemy?

I was working in my yard this afternoon when my next-door neighbor came walking up. She knew I was a bird lover, and wanted to know if I knew how to get a hummingbird out of her garage. It may sound like an odd request to many. However, it’s one I’m getting all too familiar with. I have over 4,000 individual web pages on my South Dakota Birds website. Of all those pages, which page gets the most hits? During the summer months it’s generally not even close…it’s this blog post page from a few years ago, about a hummingbird trapped in my garage.

Once a hummingbird is in your garage, it’s not easy to get them out. My garage, for example, is quite tall, with the ceiling height a good six feet above the top of the garage door itself. Once a hummingbird comes in a garage, their instinct to escape drives them to fly upwards. They really seem to have trouble seeing the open garage door as an escape, and instead seem to always fly up towards the ceiling of the garage. For us, we’ve had two hummingbirds trapped in our garage over the  years, and in both cases, we weren’t able to get them out until they were quite tired from flying around trying to escape. Then we got them to cling to a feather duster while we slowly moved them down and out the garage door. Other people have had some luck luring them down with flowers, hummingbird feeders, or some “red” item that grabs their attention.

And that is the problem in the first place…their attraction to the color red. The item in the picture below may be the most dangerous item for a hummingbird that you have in your entire house or  yard. This is the manual “pull” on a garage door opener, what you use when the power goes out and you want to manually close or open your garage door. The problem is quite simple…garage door manufacturers seem to love making these items red in color. Hummingbirds strongly key in on the color red, associating it with flowers, and thus, nectar for feeding. If a hummingbird goes past an open garage door and sees a red item dangling down, just that attraction to the color red may cause them to enter the garage and check it out.  Once inside, if you have a garage with a ceiling higher than the top of the garage door, they tend to get “stuck”.

We have multiple hummingbirds around our yard from early May through late September. However, with one simple change in our garage four years ago, we haven’t had any hummingbirds inside our garage.  That change? Simply taking the red pull off the garage door opener and changing it to a black item. When I went over to my neighbor’s garage this afternoon, I knew what I would find…red garage door pulls.

Given how difficult it can be to get a hummingbird out of your garage, the best advice I have…prevent their entry in the first place. Check your manual garage door pulls. If they have a red pull, take it off and use a neutral colored item in its place.

Red Garage Door Pull

A typical red “pull” on a garage door opener, for release and manual movement of the garage door. So many manufacturers seem to use bright red pulls such as this. With an open garage door, this is a huge attractant to hummingbirds, who are very easily “trapped” in a garage once they are inside.

Kill things or South Dakota will go to hell

Wear Fur Sign - South Dakota

Wear fur! If we’re not all wearing fur like the OH-so-modern model on this billboard, we’ll all be run over by furry beasts.

The title of the blog post? That’s my takeaway from the billboards that have been on our two main interstates for YEARS…ever since we moved here 25 years ago.  I know of two signs, and I believe there are more.  One is on I-29 in the far southeastern edge of the state. That sign states that South Dakota will face “Economic Ruin” if we don’t hunt and trap animals in the state. Because as you know, this is the 1700s where fur-trapping is the major economic driver of the state.  Take that away, and our economy will fall apart.

The second is a sign on I-90 near a favorite rock-hounding site in western South Dakota near Kadoka.  My son and I were out there today so I thought I’d share the wisdom of this second sign.  In short…we all need to kill furry critters and wear their fur. Otherwise we’ll be inundated with the little furry bastards.  Grab your shotgun (this is South Dakota…you KNOW you have one), grab your traps, and get the hell out there and kill as many as you can.

Or else!

Economic ruin. Ecologic ruin. Thank GOD South Dakota has these thankless heroes out there killing all the animals in the state, saving us from disaster.

Remind me again…why the hell do I live here???

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.

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