VIDEO: Cariboo women come to rescue of injured and abandonded hummingbirds

Caren Pritchard of Williams Lake prepares to fee a Rufous hummingbird rescued by Second Chance Wildlife Rescue Society. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
The juvenile hummingbird is headed to the Kamloops Wildlife Park. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Sue Burton is an avid volunteer for Second Chance Wildlife Rescue out of Quesnel. Monica Lamb-Yorski file photo
Caren Pritchard believes the Rufous hummingbird is a female, judging from the speckles on her neck. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

Two rescued hummingbirds have been lovingly cared for by a Williams Lake woman in advance of being taken to the Kamloops Wildlife Park for rehabilitation.

Caren Pritchard received both of the hummingbirds from Sue Burton, a volunteer with Second Chance Wildlife Rescue out of Quesnel.

The first one was injured on Tuesday, July 21, and Pritchard drove it down to Kamloops.

“On my way home, Sue phoned and asked if I could take another one until Friday or Saturday,” she said at her home Thursday, July 23.

As she prepared to feed a juvenile Rufous hummingbird inside a screen tent set up in her front yard, Pritchard said it did not appear to be injured, but it was a young one.

“It’s so sad. It doesn’t know how to drink yet,” she said. “I’ve been coaxing and coaxing it to swallow the nectar out of a syringe. I’m not her mom so it won’t open up its mouth for me, but that’s how it has to eat.”

So far the tiny creature has not flown, and when Pritchard noticed the hummingbird’s balance was off she placed a bamboo skewer through the box for it to stand on.

Pritchard first discovered she had a passion for hummingbirds about 12 years ago.

She had been watching a hummingbird in her yard making a nest in a tree.

“I assumed there were babies in there because she was flying in and doing something. Then one morning I was getting dressed and thought I hadn’t seen her so I set up my video camera because I had to go to work.”

When she got home, she watched the nest with her daughter Sydney and they could see little beaks poking up so they knew there were babies inside.

With the mother gone, the two climbed a ladder and cut the nest out of the tree.

The hummingbirds did not even have their eyes open yet so Pritchard’s mom Nola brought her a syringe from Cariboo Memorial Hospital that had a long piece on that end that mimicked a mother’s beak and Pritchard started feeding the babies.

“They knew what to do, they’d bob their heads up and down,” she recalled. “It was so cool. We kept them inside a screen tent and eventually opened up the screen and they flew away.”

Often the hummingbirds would return after that, even landing on Pritchard’s head or eating out of a bird feeder.

The next year one showed up in the carport.

It hopped on her son Jordan’s finger and then onto Pritchard’s finger.

Pritchard said she has also become involved with a local group of women who puts bands on hummingbirds, upon the invitation of Diane Dunaway, a beekeeper at Soda Creek.

Dunaway has 1,000s of hummingbirds come to her feeders and was asked if she would be interested in starting up a banding group in Williams Lake as part of the Hummingbird Project of B.C. by the Rocky Point Bird Observatory in Victoria.

“Diane said she would love to and that she knew someone else that might be interested because she knew about my babies. Right away I was keen and we’ve been doing it ever since.”

Since caring for the babies she hadn’t taken anymore in until Burton contacted her last week. Burton knows Pritchard because she has called her in the past about a baby crow and some baby mice and knew she was interested in hummingbirds.

Tracy Reynolds, animal care manager at the Kamloops Wildlife Park said they receive about 10 hummingbirds a year.

Often injuries are to the head or wing caused by window strikes. It’s not common to get nestlings, however, more often it’s adults.

The hummingbird Pritchard delivered on Tuesday was a Calliope from the 100 Mile area and Reynolds said it is doing OK, but cannot fly yet.

“We think it has a wing injury, but honestly with our X-ray it is challenging because a hummingbird is so tiny. There bones are so fine and an X-ray is not clear.”

Cage rest is usually the course of treatment in a tiny critter pen and supporting it for the time it needs to heal.

Even medicating them is extremely difficult, she added.

Reynolds started as a volunteer with the park in 2002, moved to working casually and then full-time.

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