Fastest Things on Wings: Rescuing Hummingbirds in Hollywood is Terry Masear’s tale of rehabilitating the incredibly beautiful, surprisingly resilient hummingbirds people bring her from all around the Los Angeles area.
Fastest Things on Wings ends up being as much about people as hummingbirds. The book opens with Katy “balancing precariously in a pine tree a hundred feet over the Pacific Ocean” trying to rescue two hummingbird chicks whose mother died. Terry Masear, groggy from too little sleep, talks her through the rescue. While not exactly typical, this rescue is only one of a number of dramatic efforts people have made to bring hummingbirds, and one of many, many times Masear has had to talk people through the steps of hummingbird help. On the flip side, there are times when she has to try to talk people out of “rescuing” birds whose mothers truly are taking care of them and times when people are “too busy” to help. An array of people from all over come through her doors bringing injured birds or call her in a panic, wanting to know how to help birds they have found.
If the people vary in type and personality, so, too, do the hummingbirds. Not only do hummingbirds differ in species, they are individuals. It is eye-opening to read about Pepper and Gabriel, two birds who formed a temporary bond that helped both heal; Iris, who stayed in the aviary longer than most and helped teach other birds; or Chucky who was an outright bully–which suited him perfectly for life outside the aviary; and on and on. It easy to assume that they tiny, rapidly moving bright blurs in the garden are simply too small to be much more than sugar-powered, instinct-driven eating-machines, but Masear makes it clear that they are far more than that. Each one is an individual.
Fastest Things on Wings shows the dedication, hard work, and emotional resilience it takes to be a rehabber. It’s not just feeding nestlings every thirty minutes through the day and gently cleaning birds covered with street grime, it’s answering anxious and sometimes angry questions, cleaning cages, and going on after a bird dies despite all the care given. It’s also admiring the beauty of the birds, meeting engaging new personalities, and watching them fly away once healed. The book is a paean to the birds and a plea for us to keep caring for them and for the world surrounding us. It is well-written, heart-grabbing, and mind boggling.
Fastest Things on Wings: Rescuing Hummingbirds in Hollywood by Terry Masear came out June 16, 2015. Look for it on Amazon.