What happens when a rare hummingbird shows up at your birdfeeder? (asking for a friend)


Remember that time when there was a global pandemic and you’d been living in utter isolation for five months, and then one ordinary Sunday you spotted a strange bird on the feeder (a bird, that it turns out has only been documented in your state 7 times in history)? And then a stranger shared your social media post (where you were asking your naturalist friends to help out with field ID) on a rare bird sighting forum and then the birders started messaging you by the dozens and asking permission to show up in droves to stand in your driveway, staring up at your bird feeders?

Yeah, me too.

What a bizarre week we have had. This introvert bird-nerd is both elated and exhausted.


The bird, for those who are curious, is an immature Mexican Violetear (Colibri thalassinus) hummingbird. And it’s a very long way from home, indeed.

And that innocent little bird derailed our lives for 2 1/2 days and spiraled us into an unexpected journey of opening our yard and driveway to (masked, social-distanced) strangers, making new (masked, social-distanced) friends, and putting down–if only for a couple of days–our normal, quiet, solitary life.

Since our adventure began, I think I have sent out over 200 emails, replying to inquiries from birders asking politely, even apologetically, if they might mask up and come to my driveway in hopes of a peek. I emailed out the rules (considering covid, and considering our need for at least some semblance of privacy), and they began to arrive that very afternoon. They were appreciative, polite, enthusiastic, and sometimes brought to the edge of tears when they caught a glimpse of this once-in-a-lifetime bird.

Some brought gifts, left thank you notes, and offered donations to our hummingbird feed fund. Most were simply grateful.

I put down my projects and plans for the weekend, and simply welcomed strangers and replied to wave after wave of emails. The whole thing was bizarre, exciting, and exhausting.






We were amused that only the day before our traveling superstar arrived, I had spent 11 hours painting my house trim for the first time in 8 years (resulting, according to one of my kids in our house looking “less abandoned”), and we joked that it was a good thing I had, since so many unexpected guests arrived the very next day, all of them photographing this bird with my trim as the backdrop.

A friend messaged me saying, “I heard your hummingbird mentioned on Minnesota public radio!” An email came through from someone saying, “I got a rare bird alert about your hummingbird and would love permission to visit, but I think I might already know you. I think we bought your off-grid solar house 14 years ago.” They had.

What a small world it really is.

So much magic and serendipity and kindhearted people, it restored my faith in the planet and, to a point, humanity.


After two bustling days, our new feathered friend had gone, and eventually, the hopeful birders all went home, too. Some were lucky enough to have gotten a look, others (good sports though they were) struck out, despite some driving as far as 10 hours in hopes of catching a glimpse.

But as one birder put it (when I apologized that our traveler had already left), “It’s not a zoo!” Fair point.

What a weekend! What a bird. And now, what a long and quiet rest is in order.


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