Guest post and photography by my daddy, Curt. He also shared this post a while back.
Every summer a strange phenomenon takes place in many American garages: Hummingbirds fly in, but they don’t fly out. They will stay in there, with the door wide open, until they keel over dead. Weird, right? Here’s why it happens, and how to get a hummingbird out of a garage. Time to convince your family you are a “hummingbird whisperer.”
Why Hummingbirds Fly Into Garages
A hummingbird has the metabolism of, well, a hummingbird. They burn energy at a staggering rate, and so are constantly searching for food. Their primary source is the sweet nectar they find inside blossoms, which is why you find them hovering about flower gardens. Since their next meal is usually found inside something colored bright red, yellow, orange or purple, their tiny brains are programmed to seek these hues. That’s why hummingbird feeders are usually colored red and yellow.
Enter the Law of Unintended Consequences. The government requires every electric garage door opener to have a release handle so if it becomes stuck, you can pull this handle to manually raise and lower the door. If you step out into your garage and look up, you’ll see that this dangling little handle is, that’s right, RED, and shaped roughly like a trumpet vine flower. You’re already ahead of me, aren’t you?
The unintended consequence of that red handle is that a hummingbird flies by an open garage, sees a little red “flower” inside, and zips in to investigate. Upon finding they can’t stick their tongues inside that plastic handle for some nectar, most turn around and leave. But a surprising number make a fatal error—they fly up. Regardless of the reason, once they get it in their heads that “up” is the only way out, they refuse to fly through the open door.
This ends badly. The confused hummingbird will hover near the ceiling, searching every high corner of the room, until it has to rest, usually on the garage door track or a light fixture. It will repeat this cycle until it is completely exhausted and dies, which can take only a few of hours.
How to Get a Hummingbird Out of a Garage
Some of you this summer will head out into the garage with the kids to go somewhere, and find one of our little feathered buddies in exactly the situation I’ve described.
Load the family up in the minivan, back out into the driveway, and tell them, “Watch this.” Trot back into the garage and grab your leaf rake. Slowly, slowly move the business end of the rake up to within just a few of inches of the hovering or resting hummingbird.
Be patient. It will, depending upon its level of exhaustion, land on the tines of the rake within just a few seconds. Then very slowly lower the rake a couple of feet and move toward the open door. Once it sees more blue sky than garage ceiling the hummingbird will probably take off, but it might be so tired it needs to rest a minute even when you are all the way outside. All the more time for you to look awesome for little onlookers.
Remember to wave “bye” and act nonchalant when you get back in the car. Feel free to answer questions about your abilities with whatever colorful story you care to fabricate.
After using this method for getting a hummingbird out of a garage dozens of times in the four homes we’ve owned, we give it our “Rachel’s Mom and Dad Seal of Approval”—which sounds like something that needs a graphic representation on TH. Rachel? (Editor’s note to editor’s dad: Don’t press your luck, Dad. Look, you got published on my blog…twice.)