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.

Hummingbird Arts by JoLynn Taylor (About me & hummingbirds)

 Photo: Sy Montgomery watches Brenda Sherburn feed orphaned hummingbirds.


Article/Photos by JoLynn Taylor          ~ Wildcare News ~

Brenda is a full-service hummingbird care provider. She feeds baby hummingbirds every 20-30 minutes from dawn to dusk in a spare room she has dedicated to their needs. She has also built an aviary where fledglings can learn to fly and feed themselves, and she has even created a hummingbird garden where she can release them.

In June of 2008, author Sy Montgomery visited Brenda to learn what is involved in caring for a bird that weighs less than a quarter and has a metabolism so high it can go into shock if it misses a meal. The result of that visit was a chapter on hummingbirds in Sy’s newest book, Birdology.

Birdology is fascinating and dramatic reading. In her hummingbird chapter, Sy writes about the challenge of being a hummingbird rehabilitator and the perils of being a hummingbird, capturing the drama of seeing them through illness and injury and the nerve-wracking joy of release.

Excerpt from Birdology, by Sy Montgomery

Hummingbird rehabilitators are unsung heroes. Toiling away with their syringes and Kleenex, each is a Mother Theresa, a Saint George, a little Dutch boy with his finger in the dyke – desperately trying to fend off the hoards of monstrous perils facing these tiniest of all birds. Hawks, roadrunners, crows, jays, squirrels, opossums, raccoons – even dragonflies and preying mantids – eat them. Bass leap from ponds to gulp them whole. Fire ants and yellow jackets sting babies to death in the nest. Flying adults get impaled on the stamens of thistles. They are killed by unseasonable freezes — and by other hummingbirds. They spar with needle-like bills, but most hummers kill rivals by chasing them away from nectar sources. The losers starve.

They die from infestations of mites. They get blown off course on migration and run out of energy. They fly into spider webs while hunting for bugs, or while gathering the silk for nest-making. They fall to the ground with their wings bound, mummy-like, in sheets of sticky silk, unable to fly or feed. One woman found such a victim on the floor of her barn, so dirty and lifeless-looking that she kicked it with her shoe before realizing it was not a clod of dirt, but a glittering, still-living hummingbird, imprisoned in a robe of cobwebs.

Baby Anna's Hummingbird. Photo by JoLynn Taylor

Anna’s Hummingbird nestling in foster care at Brenda Sherburn’s home, photographed with a dime for size comparison.

In the hummingbird garden. Photo by JoLynn Taylor

Author Sy Montgomery and WildCare hummingbird specialist Brenda Sherburn in Brenda’s Fairfax hummingbird garden.

Baby hummingbird feeding from a syringe. Photo by<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
JoLynn Taylor

Baby hummingbird in its nest beginning to feed herself from a nectar-filled syringe.