How to Band a Hummingbird

Saturday was our 5th Annual Birds, Blooms and Butterflies Festival.  It was a PERFECT day weather-wise…couldn’t have been better.  Nearly 600 people turned out for the event – a record number for this festival.

The morning started right off with Allan Chartier setting up his hummingbird trap to catch and band hummingbirds.  Allan is one of two licensed hummingbird banders in Michigan, and we were thrilled to have him come and demonstrate this skill.  Since only one hummer was captured this year, I thought I’d share the photos for those who have never seen this done.

First, Allan showed us the trap.  This is essentially a cage with a hummingbird feeder inside.  The door is operated by a remote, and once a bird flew inside to get a drink, Allan would push the button and the door would close, effectively trapping the bird inside.

The trap was hung in a nearby tree where a hummingbird feeder had been placed all summer.

Then we waited.

Luckily for us, the wait was only a few minutes before a hummer flew in to get a drink.  Allan closed the door and went to retrieve the bird.

The bird was placed in a white sack, which in theory helped reduce the stress of the newly captured animal while

Allan had recorded essential data:  the time, date, location, and method of trapping, as well as statistical information about the bird.

The bird was carefully removed from the sack,

and very quickly banded.  Allan had already selected the band, opened it, and placed it in the banding pliers so that the actual banding process would happen quickly.

Next he had to age the bird.  This was done by looking for wrinkles on the bird’s beak.  Hummingbirds have wrinkles when young, and no wrinkles as adults.  This was a wrinkle-less adult female.

The tail was measured,

and the beak.

Allan looked for signs of molting, amount of body fat, and checked to see if there was a brood patch (there wasn’t).  Here you can see him gently blowing through a tube to move the feathers off the bird’s belly so he could check for these things.

Then the bird was wrapped in what looked like the toe of a stocking,



and placed on a scale to get its weight.

Once all the data were collected, Allan brought the bird around so everyone could see it up close.

At last, the bird was ready to be released.  A lucky member of the audience provided a hand upon which Allan placed the bird.  It might sit there, recovering, or it might take off.

This one flew off immediately.

The trap was reset and we were hopeful of catching another hummer (a male was checking things out), but this female ended up being the only bird banded this day.

Allan spends a good deal of the spring and summer banding hummingbirds around the area, often in the Waterloo area, and often in people’s gardens, where the birds frequent hummingbird feeders.  It’s terrific that we are able to get him out each year to demonstrate the banding process.

If you missed the hummingbird banding this year, mark your calendar for next year’s Birds, Blooms and Butterflies Festival (17 August) and plan to be here first thing in the morning (9:00).



About Dahlem Center

The Dahlem Center is a non-profit nature center/environmental education center located on almost 300 acres just south of the city of Jackson, Michigan. The Center is one arm of the Dahlem Conservancy, which includes land conservancy and stewardship in its mission.
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