PARK CITY, Utah — Jody Giddings, executive director of the Park City Hummingbird Hospital, had a lengthy career as a kindergarten teacher before she found an unlikely encore vocation in wildlife rehabilitation.
“I volunteered at numerous clinics, some in Rhode Island, and then opened up Sunday River Wildlife, which was based in Maine,” Giddings said. “We did not specialize, we were generalist sas far as wildlife, and we took everything from ahawks to bats, owls, baby squirrels, pretty much the whole spectrum of whatever injured or orphaned wildlife there was.”
With two of her sons based in Salt Lake City, Giddings decided to make the move from snowy Maine to even snowier Park City, and brought her passion for animal rehabilitation with her.
“When I got here I realized that I wanted to do wildlife rehabilitation, but I didn’t want to do the wide spectrum of everything,” Giddings said. “And so we chose a species that we have a lot of experience with, and that no one really in the entire world is specializing in right now.”
The nonprofit Hummingbird Hospital, in Snyderville, opened in July after receiving permitting from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the state of Utah. Since the hospital opened its doors, Giddings has had over 180 hummingbird patients.
Giddings’ tiny patients don’t just come from Summit County. Utahns have transported injured birds to the Hummingbird Hospital from all over the state.
“We’ve had some that have come from Provo, Duchesne, up in Ogden, a lot of Park City a lot of Salt Lake City and that area,” Giddings said. “One of the things that’s been great is that people have been willing to transport the hummingbirds, so they’re willing to gather them and put them in a little box where they’re safe, and then drive them up here.”
Hummingbirds have ended up in Giddings’ care for a variety of reasons. The small birds commonly become injured after flying into windows.
“We do encourage people that if there is a window incident, that they can get the bird to either us or another wildlife rehabilitator,” Giddings said. “We do find that very often it’s the same as if a human was running full speed, or 60 miles an hour into a brick wall, so they do usually have some residual damage. Sometimes they will fly off on their own, but they’re not necessarily healthy.”
The Hummingbird Hospital has also received orphaned babies who were blown out of the nest during wind storms this summer. However, it has also gotten its fair share of what Giddings referred to as “kidnapped” fledgling hummingbirds, babies that people find on the ground as they’re going through the natural process of learning to fly.
“They [hummingbirds] go through a stage, which all birds do, where they kind of hop out of the nest before they’re really ready to fly, and the mom will follow them around and feed them,” Giddings said. “People will see them, and they’re so cute and so little that they’ll grab them and say ‘Oh I need to raise this.’ So they’ll keep it in their house for a few days and then realize that they’re not thriving, it’s a lot of care.”
Giddings uses her knowledge of hummingbirds and other wildlife species to operate the Hummingbird Hotline, where those who find sick or injured animals of any kind can call 801-228-0831 for advice on what to do next.
“We encourage people to call about anything,” Giddings said. “Obviously, larger things — moose, sandhill cranes and things like that — we do refer to Department of Wildlife Resources, but we can, if someone has another type of bird that’s been injured or you know, a baby squirrel or different things, we can either take them and care for them or refer them to other rehabilitators that do take everything.”
For those interested in learning more about the Hummingbird Hospital, Giddings will do a presentation at the Park City Library on Oct. 10 at 4 p.m. This event is a part of the library’s local speaker series, and is open to the public.
For more information on the Hummingbird Hospital, visit https://www.hummingbirdhospital.org/.