After making its way slightly off nature’s beaten path and into Wisconsin, one little green-breasted mango has found its way to safety, with the help of the human hand.

Neighbors in the area of Sandale Drive in Beloit – who had been receiving regular visits from the hummingbird since July – lured it into a cage Monday and carefully towed it to the Wisconsin Humane Society Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Milwaukee.

With winds growing increasingly frigid, there’s no way the exotic creature, a native of Mexico and Central America, could have survived a Wisconsin winter, resident and amateur birder Virgil Amundson said.

“Everybody said he wouldn’t leave, but we kept hoping he would,” he said.

About a month ago, Amundson, who resides at 4297 W. Sandale Drive, took down all his hummingbird feeders except one, installed a few heat lamps to keep his porch warm for the bird and waited.

“We just watched him to see when he’d start changing his actions, and he got to the point that last day on Monday, when the wind was blowing really hard and there were no leaves left on the trees, that he was just having a hard time,” he said. “They were talking about it getting so cold, so I didn’t want to wait any longer.”

Now under the care of Scott Diehl, manager of the Wisconsin Humane Society Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, he eventually will make his way to the Brookfield Zoo, outside of Chicago.

In the meantime, some expert ornithologists are criticizing Amundson’s decision to rescue the rare bird.

“Nature’s been doing its thing for longer than we’ve been on the planet and, in general, if an animal is in a naturally bad situation and it’s likely to die, that weeds it out of the gene pool – it’s natural selection, is what it is,” said Sheri Williamson, who has been studying and writing about hummingbirds for more than 20 years and currently serves as director of the Southeastern Arizona Bird Observatory.

Although she typically favors letting nature take its course, this situation was a bit different, Williamson added.

“In this case we’ve got a bird that has been dependent on human hand-outs that might have died completely anonymously in the wild of Wisconsin or Illinois, had it not stumbled upon these people’s feeders. So it’s already been a benefit of human kindness and I don’t think that kindness should stop just because the hummingbird water freezes over,” she said.

“This is a humane decision and not a conservation decision,” she added. “Whether this bird lives or dies is not going to make a bit of difference to its species, but it does make a difference to that bird and the people who care about it.”

After Mike Ramsden of Beloit’s Ned Hollister bird club identified the bird and placed an alert on the Internet in September, more than 700 people flocked to Beloit to catch a glimpse of it.

Now Amundson and his grandchildren, who he says have grown attached to the bird, look forward to the opportunity to visit it. Williamson doesn’t necessarily agree with that part of the picture, though.

“This is a bird we can help, not by sending it to a zoo, but by putting it in South Texas where it has a good chance of fulfilling its destiny as a green-breasted mango,” she said. “Being placed in captivity doesn’t seem to be much of a life for a bird that could be healthy living in the wild.”

Brookfield Zoo Vice President of Animal Care Kim Smith assures birders that the little guy will do just fine, though. Once he arrives, he will be quarantined for 30 days – the zoo’s standard procedure for any incoming animal – before joining about 25 other species of birds, including two species of hummingbirds, in the zoo’s aviary.

“We have a history of housing hummingbirds in captivity, and zoological institutions have a long history of maintaining hummingbird species in captivity for a long time, and breeding them in captivity,” Smith said.

With staff on hand to monitor its diet and environmental surroundings, Smith added that, “I understand other people’s concerns, but the animal won’t die – it will have a good home and a good life, so to us that’s obviously a viable alternative.”

The bird is expected to be transported to the Brookfield Zoo yet this week, where it likely will remain.