Big Country Audubon Society

Big Country Blog

A Bird in the Hand…

BCHU

I’ve posted bird banding pictures recently, but I just had to share these photos with everyone because how many times do you see a hummingbird in the hand and it’s still alive? Kathy and I went to Christoval to Dan Brown’s Hummer House at the end of June (it was her birthday!) to watch the banders at work. Weather stayed mild and cloudy making for excellent bird-in-the-bag conditions. If the weather is too hot, some hummingbirds are too stressed and can’t be contained in the bags for long. I learned how to determine age and sex of hummingbirds (no, you don’t look there). The sign is in their back feathers, wings and tail feathers. If the edges to the back feathers are gray, it’s a female. If the edges are buffy, it’s a juvenile. Spreading the wing and counting from the tip of the primary back to the 7th primary reveals sex. A narrow P7 is male; a fatter P7 is female. How cool is that? Then you study the tail feathers to determine if the third feather from the edge is white tipped or green to categorize the bird further. All the adult males are “green” and a small percentage of females are also. If there is another AOU split with Black-chinned Hummingbirds, the banders will already have their data collected.

I got to try my hand at banding the hummers. I was nervous at first; such tiny bands and tiny legs and tiny everything about hummers! And I was nervous at the end. I was definitely out of my comfort zone. One male hummer kicked and flailed his tiny leg into the air making himself a moving target. What if I squeezed too hard on the band? What if I severed a leg? What if I squeezed his body too hard? Who turned up the heat? Well, I managed to band three hummers before handing the tools back to the seasoned veterans. I decided my talent was plucking the hummers and other birds from the mist nets used to snare the unsuspecting birds. Yes, it was easier until the dreaded cardinal appeared in the net with his BIG bright red bill ready to clamp down on my finger. Somehow I managed to get him out of the net without incurring any war wounds. In between plucking birds out of the net and watching the banders deftly apply jewelry to the birds’ ankles, I macro-photographed some of the more interesting birds. A Bird in the Hand is definitely easier to photograph than one in the bush! And did I mention the show-stopper bird?