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Calliope Hummingbird

It’s been a few years since I was first enchanted by the Idaho Bird Observatory‘s Hummingbird banding operation, described in my most popular post, Banding Hummingbirds for science. That post explains the reasons and methods of the research. A recent visit afforded the opportunity to view and try to photograph these marvelous creatures again.

The trap consists of a net attached to a string that is operated by someone sitting patiently about 30 yards away. Hummingbirds come in to feed at the feeder and the net operator drops the net.

Then the trapper carefully reaches inside the net to gently grasp the bird and finagle it into the mesh bag in which it will be carried to the banding station.

After removing a bird from the mesh bag, it is gently burritoed into a piece of felt. Much like swaddling an infant, this calms the bird and prevents injury.

The bird’s leg is measured for selection of proper sized band.The bands are sized to match the measuring tool. After inspection for physical condition, age, and sex, the bird is weighed. All this data is recorded along with the band number. It is particularly exciting and common to find birds that have been banded in previous years.Hummingbird nests are constructed of bits of twigs and plant matter, knit together with miraculously stretchy spider-web material which allows flexibility for growing hatchlings. Hummingbird eggs are the size of a Jelly Belly candy. The angle of light highlights the iridescent color of a Black-chinned Hummingbird.

After all that excitement, the bird gets a generous snack to restore energy.Then comes the moment of release. Often the bird sits for several seconds in the handler’s open hand, like this Black-chinned Hummingbird. It is wildly fascinating to feel that tiny beating heart as the little critter gathers its wits before bursting into the air with an assertive buzz and often a squirt of poop as a final commentary.