Hummingbird Banding (Or How to Get a Tiny Bracelet on a VERY tiny bird)

If you’re reading this in email or on Facebook, click on the title! It will take you directly to the blog (an easier viewing page.) If you’re already in my blog, WELCOME! (One more hint: If you click on any of the photos in the blog, they should open up in a browser window so you can get a better look!)

 

I first published this a in 2011! Yesterday, August 24, 2014, we recaptured an adult, female hummingbird who was first captured on August 24, 2008! That means that this girl is at least 7 years and 2 months old! Many people have asked about hummingbird banding since then, so I thought I’d republish with some new photos – especially adding this one of my “white-haired” friend. Yes, those are white feathers. Ornithologists aren’t certain what causes this, but they do know that the feathers sometimes come and go. It could be dietary. It could be other factors

My "elderly" friend!

My “elderly” friend!

Blog post from 2011:

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve loved hummingbirds. Their beauty and swiftness are a given, but their feistiness speaks to me. Have you ever heard them squeal? Oh, my! It sounds like someone is pulling their little wings off. Of course they aren’t, it’s just their vocalization.

When we moved to Michigan (almost 8 years ago), we had the great fortune to get to know Allen Chartier with whom we’d “chatted” online for a number of years. Allen is a bird bander who works with all birds, but is also able to work with hummingbirds. Banding hummingbirds (as with all birds) helps science learn more about migration and breeding habits. It also enables you to get up close and very personal with flying jewels.

Allen with Hummingbird "Trap"

Allen with Hummingbird “Trap”

So, how do you catch a hummingbird? In our case, we use a trap. Now, don’t start envisioning something with jaws and metal teeth. The trap we most often use looks like a wire-mesh drum. A feeder hangs in the middle , with a door that opens (and closes via remote) and a human arm access door on the opposite side. I’ll go more into that in a bit.

It’s time to take down all the feeders. We do this to limit the sugar optons to the feeder inside the trap. At first, the birds will be confused. We never start banding at first light so that the birds can get their first feedings of the day. They will find the feeder inside the trap. They will do the “hummer dance” first. The hummer dance is when they hover all around the outside of the trap looking for a way to get to that feeder. Once they find the open door, they go in. We try to wait until they are on the backside of the feeder or perched. Then, we push the remote and the door closes. They’re in the trap.

It’s my turn! I open the access door and stick my arm in. This is the time where I still hold my breath. I know these little buggers are tough, but they are also delicate creatures and catching them gently but firmly is an acquired ability.

Once I’ve got him/her I quickly move them to a mesh bag. The bag holds them comfortably and they usually calm right down when they know they can’t fly off.

Mesh Bag

Mesh Bag

It’s all up to the bander now. He takes the bird from the bag and places it in a nylon “sock” and affixs the band around the hummer’s leg.

Readying the Hummer for Weighing

Readying the Hummer for Weighing

He then weighs the bird and takes measurements. The measurements include looking at the bird’s bill. If it has corregations, it’s a hatch-year bird. Tail feathers are checked and measured as is the wing. The bird is also checked for body fat (especially as migration comes close) and females are checked for either carrying an egg or showing a brood-patch. A brood-patch is an area on the female bird that shows wear from sitting on a nest.

Hummer getting a band (Yes, they are VERY tiny)

Hummer getting a band (Yes, they are VERY tiny)

Measuring Wing Length

Measuring Wing Length

 

Once all the measurements are taken, the final step is to color-mark the bird’s head. In Allen’s case, this is similar to colored “white out” which will wear off over time.  This way, I can recognize the birds that have bands each time they come to the feeders. Another benefit to color marking the bird is that it’s immediately recognizable should it go back into the trap. It would be released immediately. The later it gets in the season (after July in Michigan), Allen will stop color marking.

Color Marked Bird (Before Release)

Color Marked Bird (Before Release)

So, what happens if the bird already has a band when captured for the first time? The same procedures are followed (well, except for adding the band). The bird gets two color dots.  Once the band is on, all the measurements are taken, and the color dot(s) is on, the great part comes … releasing the bird. You hold your palm open and the bird sits until it’s comfortable that It can go. Sometimes that’s immediate. Sometimes the bird sits a few seconds. Take advantage of that moment to feel it’s tiny heart beating. It reminds me of a cat’s purr.

Waiting for Take-off

Waiting for Take-off

Frequently, the bird hasn’t figured out it can fly away. Gently rocking it side to side generally gets the bird to realize it’s no longer being held. A gentle puff of wind under it’s tail can be utilized should the rocking not work.  Occasionally, the bird will sit longer, but that’s pretty rare. They don’t want to stay, they just don’t realize that they can go. Once you see the bird fly away, it’s a great feeling.

Close up of female or hatch-year male

Close up of female or hatch-year male

This bird is probably a hatch-year (new baby) male, but can’t tell for certain if the throat is clear (adult female) or has light streaking where red feathers will come (hatch-year male).

This is what an adult, male Ruby-throated hummingbird looks like up close

This is what an adult, male Ruby-throated hummingbird looks like up close

If you ever get the opportunity to watch or get involved with hummingbird banding, go for it! It’s the closest you can get to one of nature’s masterpieces.

Isn't he Gorgeous?!

Isn’t he Gorgeous?!

 

 

 

Up Next: Hello Dolly!

 

Would you like to subscribe to my blog? (Oh, yes, it’s free!) Hopefully, you have already clicked on the title and are now directly in my blog page. If you have not gotten to the blog page, click on the title of the Posting and it will take you to the blog. From there, click on “Follow.” I hope you will. You will be notified of each new posting. I also hope you will jump in and comment on my posts.

 

Looking forward to “seeing” you here on Colmel’s Blog!

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Sydney

If you’re reading this in email or on Facebook, click on the title! It will take you directly to the blog (an easier viewing page.) If you’re already in my blog, WELCOME! (One more hint: If you click on any of the photos in the blog, they should open up in a browser window so you can get a better look!)

Sydney

Sydney

Before I get started, let me issue a tissue alert. This is not a happy post. As a matter of fact, I’ll probably cry all over my keyboard while I write this.

Sydney

Sydney

I’m sharing this story because so many have to make the same decision that Jim and I had to make. It’s the hardest decision we humans ever have to make when it comes to our beloved “furkids.” We don’t come by this decision easily, and it’s one that we question over and over again. We do know, however, that when we finally do determine that euthanasia is the best and kindest answer for our pets, it’s been done advisedly and with the best interest of our family member in mind and heart.

Sydney

Sydney

Sydney came to us by an unusual route – even for people who had adopted five previous “rescue” dogs. In August of 2010, our beautiful Liesel went to the Rainbow Bridge. She had lymphoma, and there was no hope for her. She’d become terribly sick and we just had to let her go. She and Jim had formed a very special bond. Anyone who has ever had pets in the family has probably had one who stood out as a “soul dog (or whatever species).” Liesel was Jim’s. I wrote an earlier post about Liesel leaving us. If you’re interested, it’s available in my back posts.

Sydney Was a Beauty!

Sydney Was a Beauty!

After Liesel left us, Jim was in a very sad, dark place. Our friends just happened to see an advertisement in the classified portion of their newspaper only about a month afterwards. People were looking for a home for their 7-year-old, female German Shepherd Dog. They called us to let us know, but realized that we might not be ready for another dog just yet. One of our remaining two, Guinevere, was quite ill with megaesophagus – but that’s another story. They did want to let us know, “just in case…”

Sydney LOVED Snow

Sydney LOVED Snow

Surprisingly, Jim said he wanted to go take a look and meet the dog. I called and made arrangements. This girl who needed a home was Sydney. The family had gotten her as a puppy, but the family dynamic had changed due to divorce. Sydney had been the husband’s dog. He had moved to a location where he couldn’t bring Sydney, and the ex-wife didn’t want her. It was either find a new home – and soon – or she would have been euthanized.

Syd & Dad (The Day We Brought Her Home)

Syd & Dad
(The Day We Brought Her Home)

You may have read this whole story in an earlier post, but I wanted to catch new readers up to speed on how Sydney came into our lives. It was very obvious – right from the start – that Sydney was to become a “daddy’s girl.” At first she basically tolerated me (although considering the lack of care she’d received from the previous female in her life, that wasn’t surprising). Thankfully, in the last year of her life, she came to love me, too. I’d never be as special to her as Jim, but she realized that I loved her and she let me into her heart, too.

Syd Loved Just Chillin' in the Snow

Syd Loved Just Chillin’ in the Snow

We had say goodbye to Sydney on July 7. Over the past year-and-a half, it had become increasingly difficult for her to walk on her hind end. We had her tested for Degenerative Myelopathy (a common affliction that German Shepherd Dogs are susceptible to). The good news wasn’t DM, the bad news was that we couldn’t pinpoint what was causing the difficulty. X-rays indicated some extensive arthritis in her back, so we surmise that this was the main problem she was encountering. We managed to prolong her ability to get around by using prednisone, but that wasn’t a cure.

Sydney in Her Pool (July 4, 2014)

Sydney in Her Pool
(July 4, 2014)

Ultimately, time, age, and the arthritis took such a toll that we had to let her go. On July 4, we managed to get Sydney downstairs one more time to go “swimming.” Sydney always loved her pool. She would allow Bear in it, but it was unequivocally her pool. I knew time was short, so I snapped these photos. She was so happy for one last “swim.”

IMG_20140704_141029_099

Sydney’s Last Swim (July 4, 2014)

Now, it’s time to heal. Everyone heals from the loss of a loved one differently. You may be surprised at how we choose to do that. You can read more about that in upcoming blogs. Until then, cherish those loved ones around you – be it human, canine, feline, equine or other. There are no promises of tomorrow.

 

Up Next: Hello Dolly!

 

Would you like to subscribe to my blog? (Oh, yes, it’s free!) Hopefully, you have already clicked on the title and are now directly in my blog page. If you have not gotten to the blog page, click on the title of the Posting and it will take you to the blog. From there, click on “Follow.” I hope you will. You will be notified of each new posting. I also hope you will jump in and comment on my posts.

 

Looking forward to “seeing” you here on Colmel’s Blog!

August 7, 2014

A new post coming from me very soon. In the meantime, please enjoy this wonderful account from my dear friends at “Old Friends.”

Old Friends Blog

Whee! Northern Stone. Whee! Northern Stone.

We get a lot of interesting visitors at Old Friends, and this past Saturday the Central Kentucky Camera Club came out with their cameras, lenses, and tripods. For once, I felt right at home leading a tour with my own camera around my neck. It was supposed to be a normal tour around the farm with maybe a few extra cameras snapping for the horses.

Sarava wants carrots Sarava

Sarava immediately gave everyone a chance to practice getting action shots as he walked, then trotted, then galloped across his paddock for carrots! He graciously posed for the clicking shutters of everyone’s cameras. Rail Trip was next and he came over at a full run. He paced the fence as the cameras chattered away and struck several noble poses. I wonder if he thought he was back at the track with all the cameras going off.

Rail Trip strikes a pose. Rail Trip strikes a pose.

Wandering…

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