Hummingbird Banding – 365 – 103

Warning – Long Post!

Yesterday in my 100 Steps post, I showed pictures taken at the San Pedro House. This is located on the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area in Cochise County, Arizona.

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.

hummingbird tent

capturing a hummingbird

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.

captured hummingbird


SABO Hummingbird Banding sign

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
  • Weight
  • Male/Female

hummingbird banding

Blowing on the feathers to check for parasites and overall health.

weighing the hummingbird

Weighing the hummingbird.

hummingbird tail feathers

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.

allowing the hummingbird to drink

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.

giving David a hummingbird

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.

David holding a hummingbird

David holding a hummingbird

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.

hummingbird colors

My hummingbird seemed quite reluctant to take off and stayed for several minutes.

Karen holding a hummingbird

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!!


  1. Tracy

    How cool is THAT!!!! I love hummingbirds.

  2. Roberta

    That is so cool. You got to hold one!
    I know one bird-crazy boy that would just love to do that.

  3. Kristal

    That would be so cool!

  4. Carol

    What a once in a lifetime kind of experience. So glad to share it vicariously.

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