Hummingbird hitches 500-mile car ride to warmer weather

Some hummingbirds instinctively fly south when the weather turns cold.

This one hitched a car ride instead.

The tiny rufous hummingbird, measuring only eight centimeters long (just over three inches) and weighing four grams, was the subject of an extensive rescue effort last month in the Canadian community of Prince George, about 500 miles north of Vancouver, B.C.

As told by the CBC, the bird first caught the attention of Clive Keen, an expert bird photographer and author of dozens of essays on the subject. It was first spotted by his wife, Susan, in early October. Because the weather was mild that month, the Keens assumed the hummer was holding off on his journey south until the frost set in.

But when Keen saw the hummingbird again in late October, after a snowfall and with temperatures forecast to 5 degrees above zero Fahrenheit, he thought, “Clearly, it wasn’t going to survive if it stayed around. I kept thinking … ‘Surely, you’re going to take the hint and head off south.’ But no, it kept hanging around in my tree.”

After reaching out to the birder community throughout Canada for advice, he elected to entice the animal into a birdcage. After the Keens spent several hours spent watching and waiting, the bird flew into the cage and was trapped.

So, what did the Keens do next? They fired up their car, turned on the heater, loaded up the cage, and Susan Keen headed south. She drove nine hours to Vancouver. Maybe the hummingbird will head south from there on his own, or maybe he’ll hang around. While Prince George is inland and cold, Vancouver enjoys a milder maritime climate, and some hummingbirds overwinter there. She released the little guy in a park.

“What can you do?” she said. “You’ve got this tiny thing.” If left in the cold, she said, “it has no chance at all.”




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