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How Do You Band a Hummingbird?

(Come visit with James "Lanny" Chambers, Master Bander, Onondaga Cave State Park, Leasburg, MO, June 28, 2003.)

Visitor's Center

Corner banding site "Lanny" Chambers, Master Bird Bander, one of three banders in Missouri licensed to band Hummingbirds. There are 100 nationwide. See

Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird

The last week in June, most of the hummers Lanny saw at his site were females (with white throats) still feeding their first brood that will fledge in mid-July and start foraging for themselves.

Busy as she is, with her first two, she will feed them and build a second nest; mate again; lay and incubate another two eggs while feeding the first. Nesting females will consume huge numbers of insects as well as nectar -- a diet necessary for her to form eggs and to grow newly hatched young.1 Male Rubies with the distinctive ruby-red throat, mate and defend their own territory. They will be the first to start migrating in July.

Nectar feeders are heavily occupied by mother hummers and juveniles of the same coloring (young males may display little dots of color on their throats like chest hair).
Tools of the Trade - (counterclockwise) Surgical tweezers, magnifying glasses, modified surgical hemostat, bar of Hummingbird bands (handmade to eliminate rough edges), magnifying glass, measurer, digital scale, pre-weighed toe of knee-high stocking.
How to trap a hummingbird:

Hummingbird trap made of soft mesh for safety, with sides drawn open. Birds free to feed.

Trapped! Sides dropped by hidden cord.

Cradled in knee-high stocking and about to be weighed.
Weighted on a digital scale, 3.2 grams including stocking.
Her new bracelet. A very delicate procedure.

Some measurements, and released
Next, an emergency.
Hummer toes, and the white stuff is not feathers.
Lanny frequently rescues hummers from ticks and entanglements.
"The white stuff" was a hunk of cobweb snarled around her feet. Female hummingbirds gather yards of spiderweb strands to build their nests. It is not uncommon for the tiny bird to get caught in spiderwebs and frequently killed.
At last, a male ruby-throat. Light can change the iridescent color from orange to ruby to black.
A 91-year-old birder gets to release a ruby.
Heading home

Northeast Missouri, hilly and winding; no good for factory or corporate farms. Made for humans and wild birds.

1. Robert Sargent, Wild Bird Guides: Ruby-throated Hummingbird, (Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1999), page 61.

- Wild Birds for the 21st Century©

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