Warning – Long Post!
The Friends of the San Pedro River is a non-profit volunteer organization that operates a visitor’s center and gift/bookstore at the San Pedro House, along with providing education programs and assisting the Bureau of Land Management in the operation of the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area. One of the educational programs is Hummingbird Banding, which David and I were privileged to be a small part of on Tuesday.
Capturing the Hummingbird
First they cover up or take down all the hummingbird feeders except for one specially designed to capture hummingbirds.
When one is caught, they are placed into smaller netted containers and then taken to the table to await their turn in the banding process.
Sheri Williamson, the author of A Field Guide to Hummingbirds of North America (Peterson Field Guides)was the person doing the banding and was assisted by several volunteers from SABO (Southeastern Arizona Bird Observatory).
I don’t remember all they do in the banding process, but a few of the things they documented were:
- If the birds are already banded
- Overall health
- Presence of any parasites (did you know that there are different strains of lice for different families of hummingbirds?)
- Body Fat
- Whether the bird is molting
- Feather length
Blowing on the feathers to check for parasites and overall health.
Weighing the hummingbird.
Sheri Williamson displaying the tail feathers of the hummingbird.
Feeding and releasing
After the birds have finished the banding process, they are given access to all the hummingbird nectar that they might wish to drink. Some drink for several minutes while others seem to not need much feeding time.
And then the birds are carried outside into the open area (the previous steps have all been done under a covered area) and placed oh so carefully into a waiting volunteer’s hand.
Some birds are very anxious to take flight, while others will stay in the hand for a minute or even several minutes. The record for staying put in a hand at the banding events is 23 minutes!
David got to hold his bird first and it stayed for a couple of minutes.
And then it was my turn.
One of the SABO volunteers held up the bird to show the iridescence on its chest. You had to hold it just right in the sunlight for it to shine a brilliant purple.
My hummingbird seemed quite reluctant to take off and stayed for several minutes.
A fascinating experience and one we never would have thought to partake in had it not been for the coercion of visiting friends. Thanks, Helen, for dragging us along!!