Marin IJ –Why Save World Draw? About Birdie Girl

Marin Snapshot: “Fairfax Artist Finds Calling As Foster Mom for Hummingbirds”
by Jennifer Upshaw
POSTED: 05 / 01 / 2010

Above Photo/Jeff Vendsel   A pair of hummingbirds fed by artist and conservationist Brenda Sherburn, Director of through WildCare fosters cares hummingbirds.

Artist and conservationist Brenda Sherburn of Fairfax, who has cared for infant hummingbirds for more than a decade, says one of the biggest challenges is feeding the tiny birds. ‘They digest their food very quickly…. They re so little you can t feed them a lot,’ she says.  Artist and conservationist Brenda Sherburn’s life is always humming.

Sherburn, who has lived in the Fairfax hills for 14 years, has spent nearly a decade serving as a foster mother to baby hummingbirds scooped up by the San Rafael-based animal rehabilitation organization WildCare. A sculptor and sketch artist with a particular fascination for winged creatures, Sherburn will teach a class this May at Riley Street Art Store in San Rafael on “Birds As an Inspiration for Art,” a course for kids age 8 and older.  She is director of, an organization that creates art to help fill wishes for conservation.

Q: How did you get into fostering hummingbirds?

A: I was working in Belize in 2001 and I helped build an educational center for wildlife with the Belize Audubon Society … when I came back 9/11 hit.  It just hit me; I felt I needed to volunteer and be doing something to try to make the world a better place.

Q: How many hummingbirds do you foster at any given time?

A: I think six would be the maximum that I’ve had at a time.  When I have really tiny ones like in an incubator, you know, just a couple, that is very time consuming because you are attached to the incubator and 20-minute feedings until they get big enough to be outside. Then it’s not too bad because you can take them outside in a little basket and it’s really easy to feed them and they move along until we release them.

Q: What is the biggest challenge in fostering hummingbirds?

A: Not to overfeed them and to really make sure your timer is on. Twenty minutes go – you just get into a pace.

Q: Why is timing important?

A: They digest their food very quickly and in the wild the mother bird is constantly feeding them and they’re so little you can’t feed them a lot. They are growing constantly and their little bill will just kind of grow out and get longer and longer and they start doing the little tongue thing. It’s really a miracle.

Q: What attracts you to these particular birds?

A: It really clicked when I was in Belize. I saw hundreds of birds everywhere and other wildlife. When I came back I just realized that our wildlife is really in jeopardy. We need to take time to do what we can to preserve it.  As far as getting onto the hummingbird team, it was just timing.  They needed somebody and at that point I was ready.  I must add, it also works great with my art because it’s inspirational,  it’s magical – it just makes me observe the world in a better way.

Contact Jennifer Upshaw via e-mail at
Tahir Khan Arzani

Jan 19, 2015
This is excellent Brenda, you are doing great inspirational work. You have inspired many people around the world.

Brenda SaveWorldDraw

Jan 19, 2015
You’re sweet, Tahir.  This article is actually part of my bio series I’m putting together for my website.  When I think back on all those baby hummingbirds I raised, I am not sure how I ever did it.  Blessings come to us in unexpected ways.  Thank you.

You are welcome Brenda, you deserve much more recognition then this. It is good to know that you are putting together your biography for your website. You should also do it for your book.

Daraja Means Bridge & Opens With Field Trip To El Karama Wildlife Conservancy

Written by Jason Doherty, Principal & Founder of Daraja Academy in Kenya DarajaLogo

During the first week of actual classes, Daraja Academy was lucky enough to host Marin based artist/conservationist Brenda Sherburn. On campus for 5 days, Brenda taught the students about composition, art theory and how to use several types of media. She also opened many of the girls’ eyes to the immense value and natural beauty of the surrounding countryside and the role they can personally play protecting it.


But, the highlight of her visit for the students and myself as headmaster, had to be the three-hour nature walk at the El Karama Wildlife Conservancy. Brenda provided the girls with art materials so the could stop and make sketches of the animals they encountered while on the evening walk… and they did encounter animals. The vehicles returned just after sunset and poured out 20 plus giggling, chattering, excited Kenyan teenagers, each with a series of sketches and many more stories about their excursion into “the bush.”

After herding them straight into the dining hall for dinner, the roar began. “Teacher, teacher…” “Jenni, Jenni…” “Mr. D, let me tell you!” Finally, Jenni and I gave in, realizing that controlling that degree of excited energy was a kin to turning the tide. We heard broken stories of zebras and impala, ostriches and a bull elephant that had been spotted in a glade just below the ridge the Daraja students were walking on. They encountered and sketched a huge tawny eagle, saw the leftovers of a gazelle a leopard had eaten the night before in the branches of an acacia 20 feet above their path, and much, much more. “Mr. Doherty, did you know that a giraffe has her baby, while she is standing up?” “We saw a herd of zebra up close, their black stripes hold heat in and their white ones push it away, that causes a breeze like the air conditioning in a matatu (mini-van bus)!”


Aside from the pure joy that bubbled from each student upon her return, the most exciting and rewarding part of the expedition for me as head master was how well it integrated into Daraja’s curriculum. That day the students had been prepped in geography class to watch for and identify different types of formations they were to encounter. The girls incorporated information learned during their biology lesson into the five-paragraph essay they wrote about the nature walk in English class the next day. It was incredible because they learned a lot and loved every second of it. In fact one of the girls asked me after dinner, “Can we do that every week?”

Those of us in the US figure that growing up in Kenya, mast of our students see wild animals all the time. This just isn’t so. Many of our girls, especially those coming from Nairobi have never seen a wild animal. Cats and dogs, goats, donkeys and cows are the sum total of exotic fauna that the average Daraja Academy student has seen. This is what makes the location of our campus on the Laikipia plateau and our commitment to educate our students about the beauty and value of their environment. Driving only 20 miles north the students are able to observe and relate to thousands of species of plant, bird and animal.The day after the nature walk, Brenda and the students completed their art projects, which were spectacular. Each one unique, they really provide a look into the different personalities of the girls. What makes this even more incredible is the fact that upon return to the US, Brenda will be creating cards with the girl’s art on them, which will really be a treat for our students, however, that’s not all. The proceeds collected from the cards will be donated back to Daraja Academy where it will benefit our students all over again.
From the bottom of my heart, my wife’s and that of our staff here at Daraja Academy and the board of directors in the US:
Thank you Brenda!!!
The Highlight of Week I