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Banding Hummingbirds

Thursday, September 3, 2015

I got distracted by my gardens, and when I get distracted, you do, too. As if you have any choice as to what goes up here.

When we left Zick, she had successfully disappeared into a backyard outside Sedona, Arizona, and spent a delightful couple of hours photographing hummingbirds. The garden was the site of a hummingbird banding demonstration for the Sedona Hummingbird Festival, led by master hummingbird banders Steve and Debbie Bouricius and hummingbird researcher Lanny Chambers of That's the awesome website that has a wealth of information about watching and feeding hummingbirds, and even posts a map of rubythroat sightings as they make their way north on migration each spring. I was very excited to meet these amazing people. 

Lanny was excited to meet me, too, which was nice. Also he was holding an Anna's hummingbird, which adds spice to any meeting.

The banders were working under a tent, quickly processing hummingbirds that Steve Bouricius was bringing them from the wire cage traps in the garden. 
They set traps around the feeders, allow the hummingbirds to enter and exit the traps for a day or so, then hand-trip the traps when there's a hummingbird inside. 

The birds are quickly caught by hand as they rise to the top of the trap, put in soft mesh bags, and brought to the banding table. 

 In a yard this full of flowers and feeders, you can catch a lot of hummingbirds!

I watched with fascination as Lanny processed each bird. His hands moved so deftly, so gently.

Full tail-spread.

When it was time to weigh the bird on a gram scale, he gently wrapped it in breathable nylon so it would lie still. A little hummito.

The bird gets measured, wing, bill, and tail; it's aged and sexed; it gets its fat checked and its nasal grooves looked at; its gorget color assessed...the columns on this chart are astounding. I wish I'd had time to ask the million questions swirling in my head, looking at this data collection effort. 

Lanny selects a band of the right size for the species he's working with from the incredibly tiny rings in his neat little case.

He teases the hummingbird's minuscule leg out from the nylon wrapper

and gently applies the band with a tiny pliers. He's got some massive cheaters he uses for magnification.

Afterward, Lanny offered the bird to me to release it, a very special honor. I'd have been thrilled to do it, but I have had the chance to touch many hummingbirds in my life, so I gave the honor to someone I sensed hadn't.

She was into it.

And after lying perfectly still for a few moments, the little Anna's got gone, banded now and with all his vital stats now points of light in a galaxy of data.


Wonderful post. It seems all bird banding research collects the same information. I've helped or observed geese, duck and songbird banding, including the three days I helped with the lesser scaup roundup and banding here at Red Rock Lakes. AND I get to have three more days of heaven before I leave.

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What an experience! And is Lanny the guy whose backyard you were in when you "disappeared? Never saw the banding process before. Amazing. Do they have a website showing where their banded hummers have ended up?

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