Hummingbird Band

Pat and I were planning to set out for two days of backpacking on Labor Day weekend.  However, a friend asked if I would like to attend a hummingbird banding on the 1st.  It was a long weekend, so of course I decided to postpone our backpacking trip by a day so I could see hummingbirds being banded.

Who wouldn’t postpone a backpacking trip to see hummingbirds being banded?  I would have postponed all kinds of plans to see how, exactly, this works.

When we arrived at the banding location on Saturday morning, the first stop was the banding table.  The bander educated us while she banded.

The house we were at was someone’s home who happened to love hummingbirds.  They put out feeders every year like so many of us do to attract them to their home.  What was unique about this location was that it was in the middle of two ridges that created a funnel effect for migrating hummers.  So, this time of year, hundreds of hummers would stop at the feeders to fill up on their way South for the winter.  By replacing the feeders with specially designed traps that wouldn’t harm the hummers, the banders were able to capture about 35 birds before we’d even arrived, about an hour after the event started.  1 bird every two minutes is pretty impressive.

I was a bit disturbed when I was asked not to show any photos of a complete trap on the internet.  Apparently there are people in the world who think Hummingbirds would make good pets and are looking for information on how to create a trap.  If you are such a person, please be assured that you cannot keep a hummingbird as a pet and that all will be much better served if you simply feed them and let them go on their merry way.

Watching the bander handle the tiny hummers with a confidence that belied how delicate these birds really are made me wish I had the dexterity to perform such a task.  I asked her if she had started as a jewelry maker–it seemed like the appropriate skill set to me.  She laughed.  Apparently she also didn’t believe she had the dexterity to handle hummingbirds when she got started.

I watched her move through the measurements performed on each bird with a systematic rhythm, rarely interrupted by talking to us.  She measured each beak, each tail, each wing, used a straw to blow apart the feathers to see if there was fat, and then placed each bird on a scale.  She always banded them first.  She said that was in case they got away before she got through all the measurements.

When she was done, she carefully set the bird in a waiting child’s hand and they held it until it suddenly decided it could fly and buzzed away.  Sometimes, this took several minutes.  It was fascinating to see a hummingbird hold so still.

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4 responses to “Hummingbird Band

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