I had the pleasure of attending a hummingbird banding session with Sheri L. Williamson, an ornithologist and author of A Field Guide to Hummingbirds of North America (Peterson Field Guide). The session was held at the Casa de San Pedro in Hereford, Arizona. It was great chatting with Sheri, who is probably the foremost hummingbird expert in the country.
Hummingbird banding is utilized for research. The migration of banded birds can be followed and their age determined. They are caught in a net apparatus which comes down after a bird lights on the feeder for a drink. They are then thoroughly examined, weighed and banded. Everything is recorded for each bird. They are then given a drink to replenish their energy and released.
It was a rather windy day, so we didn’t catch very many birds for, but it was a great experience seeing this procedure up close and personal. And getting to chat with Sheri about hummingbirds was a treat.
There was a little male Rufous Hummer who was caught twice. We had observed him earlier at one of the feeders and he would sit on it for an unusually long time. He also appeared to us to be molting. First of all, the molt should be over. Second, a Rufous should be further north by now. Upon examination, Sheri saw that this little guy had a scissorbeak – a beak mutation that did not allow him to close his beak properly. Poor little guy is having a rough time, although he does appear to be able to feed well from the feeders. He was banded and released.
Also caught were two female Black-chinned hummers, which were also banded and released. One of the females appeared to be a fighter, as some of her head feathers were missing!
If you ever have the opportunity to witness hummingbird banding, don’t miss the chance! You might get to hold one in your hand to be the one to release it back into the wild with its new bracelet!
Studio City, California