Sick Hummingbird

We have two hummingbird feeders hanging up on our porch.  We love watching these beautiful little creators.  They are so tiny, fast, aggressive, and beautiful.  They are like little warriors at times.  Injuries are rare though.  We have never witness an injury yet and have had our feeders up for about 10 years.  There is a good blog post about the aggression (which is really the hummingbirds being territorial) in hummingbirds.  You can read this blog post at:  Killer Hummingbirds

A few days ago we noticed a sick hummingbird just sitting on one of our feeders little rails.  The hummingbirds feathers were ruffled and disheveled.  She had her eyes closed and her beck was just pointing up in the air and she was not moving.  She just sat there for about an hour.  She would take some food from the feeder once in a while. 

We noticed that the other hummingbirds were not bothering her in any way.  Hummingbirds are very territorial and they normally dive bomb one another at the feeders.  But the other hummingbirds seem to know that this was a sick hummingbird and they left her along. 

We have never seen a sick hummingbird at our feeders before.  We didn’t know what was wrong with the little bird and how to help it.   I took some photos of the sick hummingbird before it left. 

I did a Google search on what makes hummingbirds sick.  As I read various web sites, there was one virus that stood out:  Avian Pox Virus.  Avian Pox Virus is a highly contagious disease among birds.  So far it is not known to be contagious to humans.  Our sick little hummingbird had all the symptoms of Avian Pox Virus, with the exception of one, or so I thought.

Here are some of the main symptoms:

  1. Disheveled feathers
  2. Appearing weak
  3. Closed eyes
  4. Yellow Wart-like nodules on the featherless areas of the body, including the feet and legs, margins of the eyes, and base of the beak should be considered suspect cases of avian pox
  5. Labored breathing may be observed in birds where air passages have been blocked

I didn’t think our sick hummingbird had yellow warts like nodules.  As I was reviewing the photos I had taken of our sick hummingbird on my computer, I noticed these yellow nodules around the base of its beck and along it’s beck.  Wow!  I was surprised and sadden when I realized that our little sick hummingbird had the Avian Pox virus.  Here are a couple of photos of the yellow wart like nodules on our sick little hummingbird:



Now, we were wondering what we could do.  I started doing more research on the internet and for hummingbirds in the wild there really isn’t a known cure or one I could find.  Most of the information I found said to find a  hummingbird rehabilitator and possible take the hummingbird to them (if they live near.  Hummingbirds have to feed very frequently, due to their high metabolism).  We’ll look into this and see what we can find.

In the meantime, I was concerned about this sick hummingbird infecting the other hummingbirds.  Most of what I read said to remove the sick hummingbird from the other healthy hummingbirds (how do we do this, since they are wild birds.  We decided to contact a a hummingbird rehabilitator and see what they advised) and to disinfect the hummingbird feeders with a 10% bleach solution.  For now, we have disinfected the feeders.

In conclusion, we’ll try to call a hummingbird rehabilitator and see what they can tell us about our sick little hummingbird.  Hopefully they can instruct us on how to remove it from the other healthy hummingbirds.  Maybe a treatment we can give it or better yet, maybe they live nearby and we can take our little hummingbird to them and they will be able to heal it.  I hope so, but if not we do understand this is the way the circle of life works. 

Links of Interest

  1. Avian Pox Virus
  2. Another Avian Pox Virus link
  3. Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency
  4. Ecology and Genetics for Wildlife Population
  5. Killer Hummingbirds

2 thoughts on “Sick Hummingbird

  1. Pingback: Life A-New « Living on Paint Creek

    • We had a humming bird on one of our feeders today with the same symptoms as described in the 2nd paragraph above. The bird kept opening and closing its beak and stretching its neck like it had something caught in its throat. I watched it try to feed, but its beak missed the feeder hole. Every once in awhile a clear droplet appeared on the end of its tail I assume it was passing fluid. It got buzzed once by another hummingbird, but after that it was left alone by the others. It was easy to snatch the sick bird from its perch (wearing a latex glove). My wife and I observed it closely and didn’t see any yellow nodules. We took it to an avian rescue facility. It fluttered 3 or 4 times during the drive, but didn’t put up any other resistance to being held. Don’t know what the diagnosis was. Will clense the feeders.

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