Photo for the StarTribune by Terri WallsA hummingbird captured in a St. Paul yard Tuesday afternoon has avoided what might have been a cold and anonymous death. It actually flew into a rescue cage, setting in motion a rather complicated process to get it to a warmer place

This was a rufous hummingbird seen Saturday feeding on nectar Terri Walls keeps in a feeder in her front yard. The bird wandered here from the Pacific Northwest. It should have been in Mexico.
“I knew what it was,” Terri said in an interview. She also knew that rufous is a rare species to be seen in Minnesota. She put a notice on the email network serving Minnesota birders.

That was read by Sue Keator, a licensed wildlife rehabilitator with hummingbird experience. An email and phone call later, Jessika Madison/Kennedy arrived at Terri’s house with a cage.

Madison/Kennedy is avain nursery coordinator the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Roseville.

The cage was set near the feeder the bird was using. A second feeder was hung inside the cage. The hummingbird obligingly entered the cage to be promptly confined for what is hoped to be a plane ride to Arizona.

It should make the trip sometime in the next two weeks.

Phil Jenni, excutive director of the rehab center, said that before the bird can travel, however, a licensed rehabber must be found who will go to the destination airport and receive the bird. It also requires permission from the state of Arizona.

Then, a cargo ticket will be purchased, the bird placed in a special container, and off it will go.

Jenni hopes all of this happens quickly.

“Generally,” he said, “airlines and other organizations are not as concerned about the well being of the bird as they are with regulations.”

Jenni’s concern is that small birds get stressed in captive situations, he said.

“The bird seems in good condition,” he said, “but it was stressed by the number of photographers” who came to the Walls' yard to take pictures of the bird. Terri estimated that about 100 birders, many with cameras, came to see the hummingbird.

Rufous hummingbirds weigh about one-tenth of an ounce. They normally eat up to three times their weight in food each day. They eat many small meals instead of a few large ones. Terri said this bird visited the feeder every five to 10 minutes in daylight hours.

The bird has a heart rate of 480 beats per minute, with a rate of 1,260 beats per minute when excited. It also can enter a state of torpor, reducing its metabolic rate to 1/15 of normal. The birds are said to survive temperatures to minus four degrees if they have shelter and sufficient food.

The was the second rufous hummingbird to be seen here this fall. The first was near Le Seuer, where it visited a feeder daily for almost two months. Just over a dozen records exist for this species in Minnesota.

Other birder excitement came when a mew gull was found on Lake Calhoun this past weekend, only the fourth time noted here for that species. And three common eiders were found on Lake Superior at Duluth, another seldom-seen species.

And winter, a good time for wandering birds to be found in Minnesota, is just beginning.

Photo by Terri Walls