As a bird-lover, you must have wondered is it possible to keep the smallest bird as a pet. Hummingbirds are beautiful little creatures native to the Americas. The high-frequency humming sounds that they create while flapping their wings in a rapid motion, gives them their name Hummingbird.
Like no other bird, they have the potential to hover in mid-air with their high wind-flapping rate, which can range from 12 to 80 beats per second depending on their sub-species. To assist you in your decision, we will be covering all aspects of keeping Hummingbird as a pet today.
Can you keep Hummingbird as a pet?
Hummingbirds are found in the United States, Canada and an Indonesian island, Bali. This species is protected by the States under CITES Appendix 2. The list includes birds that are not threatened with extinction but their trading is controlled to protect them as a free trade poses a threat to their survival.
Is it legal?
It is illegal to keep Hummingbird as a pet. They are also protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. Unless you have a special permit, you cannot trap or keep a hummingbird or her egg. We, humans, are the well-wishers of these birds and they are not allowed to be kept as pets as it is dangerous for these species to live in captivation.
Violation of this law might cost you between $15,000 to $200,000. So, do not even think of keeping Hummingbird as a pet and restricting him in any way.
Difficulty in keeping Hummingbird as a pet
There are certain aspects of the bird’s character that limits us from keeping them as pets. Let us discuss these factors in detail:
- Extremely small size
Most species of Hummingbirds measure between 3 to 5 inches in length. The Bee Hummingbird is the world’s smallest bird with just 2.25 inches long. It weighs as much as a dime. This extremely small size makes them soft and fragile for keeping them as pets. Holding them a little too tight might harm them physically or could even kill them.
Hummingbirds have the fastest mass-specific metabolism among the homeothermic animals i.e. the ones that keep their internal body temperature stable regardless of any external influence. While in flight, they have the highest metabolism of all the animals, except for insects. Their fast-forward flights and rapid wing-flapping makes their body use more energy. As a result, they tend to eat a lot. They require feeding every 10 to 15 minutes. This makes it extremely difficult for you to take care of them all day long. Like other birds, you cannot leave them behind with food, as they might run out of it. You would not like to see your pet dead of starvation when you return home.
Some people believe that Hummingbirds only requires sugar water to survive. This is a myth as they eat a lot more than just nectar in the wild. Moreover, the nectar that they get in the wild is much more complicated in terms of nutrients than just sugar and water. To top it off, these birds are very particular in the texture of nectar they consume. With tube-like tongues, they prefer to stick to the one that is not concentrated too much.
For a healthy diet, Hummingbirds also need protein that they get from small live insects like fruit flies and gnats. An average Hummingbird eats insects and nectar equivalent to half of its body weight each day. This makes them feed on 1000 to 2000 flowers and hundreds of insects daily. That constitutes an exotic diet which is very hard to produce if we keep them as pets.
It is said that an average human with the metabolism of Hummingbird would eat up 129 kg of meat every day. That clearly shows how much time these little creatures spend on gaining the weight they lose due to their fast speed. They eat almost all day every day!
Fast flying capabilities
Hummingbirds are lightning-fast. With their fast wing-flapping rate, they will reach a place earlier than your car. They fly at a speed of 30 to 45 miles per hour without slowing down. They can continue flying for hours with their stored fat.
When you keep a bird as a pet, you tame him while fulfilling his flight needs. It is essential to keep your bird healthy and fit. With Hummingbird’s fast speed, you won’t get a chance to stop your bird from touching a harmful object. It becomes extremely difficult for you to take care of your little friend during his out-of-cage sessions. For the safety of these little creatures, they are better left in the wild with which they are familiar from their birth. It will take a lot many years for them to get accustomed to the man-made structures.
Hummingbirds are very competitive and territorial. They have needle-like beaks that could harm you. This behavior becomes extremely noticeable during their mating season.
Non-prediction of their flight
How would you react if your bird starts flying upwards instead of forward? Hummingbirds can fly in multiple directions – forward, backward or upside-down. They are the only vertebrae that can perform sustained hovering.
An unexpected flight poses a huge danger for our pets. During their out-of-cage sessions, you might not be able to monitor their flights. It could result in potential danger to the life of the bird.
How can you spend time with Hummingbirds?
If you are absolutely in love with these beautiful birds, there is another great option to spend time with them rather than keeping them as pets illegally. Since Hummingbirds are summer birds, many people keep feeders filled with sugar water outside their homes in the summers. These birds get attracted to the sweet solution and feed upon it. You can do the same by preparing a thin sugar water solution and keeping it in a feeder for the birds at a place where they can easily spot it. The birds will hover around the feeder to gain some fat allowing you to admire their beauty closely. Do not forget to wash the feeder every day as sugar solution tends to become thicker with time. Thus thick sugar-water would not attract any Hummingbird.
Also, if you have space, you can consider growing flowers to which Hummingbirds get attracted to. Your garden will be full of your favorite birds all the time. It would be interesting for you to know the fact that you can go much closer to this species than your regular pet birds. Other birds are initially afraid of our presence, but Hummingbirds are quite fearless as they are confident of their fast-moving capabilities. They know that they can run away from the hands of a slow-moving human if the need arises. This fearlessness allows you to closely spend time with them and enjoy their companionship.
Enjoy this video where Hummingbirds are fed hand-held:
For getting a more personalized feeling with them, you can also try to teach them a few taming lessons while they feed at your garden or from the feeders. It would be fun to make them learn perching on our hands!
How can you parent a Hummingbird?
If you have bigger goals and do not get satisfied with your garden full of Hummingbirds, you can parent one by becoming a breeder. You will be required to get full knowledge about the species before you become an avian breeder. Also, consider the legal requirements in your state before considering to set-up an aviary.
If you are a bird lover, the breeding of birds will bring a lot of joy to your life. You can obtain knowledge of a few species to become capable of taking care of them. Know about their feeding requirements and temperature tolerance limits. Obtain a special permit from your state authorities and become a breeder.
What to do if you find a sick Hummingbird?
Though Hummingbirds are fully capable of taking care of themselves in the wild, they might get injured accidentally or catch up with some illness. If you encounter a sick or injured Hummingbird, you must take him home. Provide hydration to the bird by placing a few drops of sugar water solution on his tongue. Make arrangements to provide him warmth. Nurse him back to health as soon as possible and release him back to nature.
If your efforts to make the bird healthy do not show any positive results, contact an experienced veterinary for his treatment. Explain to him the conditions you found the bird in, to help him cure the Hummingbird faster.
Hummingbirds are very cute, beautiful little creatures. Their enormous speed makes them a natural wonder. Just like a marathon runner requires to fuel himself much more than the normal human beings, Hummingbirds also require a special diet. They can easily fulfill their nutrition requirements in the wild with the presence of abundant flowers and live insects. They are familiar with their natural surroundings and are capable to take care of themselves.
In captivity, you might not be able to fulfill a Hummingbird’s nutritional needs. It is easy for them to die because of starvation since their metabolism is extremely fast. You might not be able to bear the stroke of their weapon-like beak. It is illegal to keep them as pets for their good and then, for ours’ too.