Please forgive me for shamelessly reposting this report that was initially published in August of 2013.
Whoohoo! An update to this post: Today, The Idaho Statesman reports that hummingbird banding projects across the country are paying off with new understandings and fresh questions about the life of a hummingbird. It is becoming clear that the life span of hummingbirds is much longer than the two to three years originally assumed. And a new-to-Idaho species, the Anna’s hummingbird, has made several appearances. The crucial missing link in this long-term research is active bird-banding at the migration destinations in Mexico and Central America.
Between May and September, hummingbirds are on the move across Idaho. At least three species of these itsy-bitsy birdies—smallest bird species in the world—migrate from their winter range in Mexico to their breeding range in Alaska and back again.
The Intermountain Bird Observatory (IBO), a department of biological sciences at Boise State University, “monitors the abundance, breeding condition, and migratory timing . . . of the hummingbirds that use the Boise National Forest during the breeding and migration season.” The data is shared with the Hummingbird Monitoring Network and the Western Hummingbird Partnership. Reliable data helps scientists understand the migration patterns and monitor threats to the continued success of the hummingbird. Last year IBO captured 368 birds, 48 of which were sporting bands from previous captures. The breakdown:
- 178 Black-chinned – weighs about as much as a nickel
- 177 Calliope – smallest migrating creature in the world; weighs about the same as a penny
- 13 Rufous – most aggressive. Has been observed attacking an eagle!
I recently observed an IBO hummingbird banding session in the hills north of Boise. Activity begins as the sun crests the horizon. Dressed in sweatshirts and hoodies, a team of students and trained volunteers traps, weighs, measures and evaluates the condition of, and bands about 70 birds during a 4-5 hour session. The birds are most active at dusk and dawn, while the temperature is cool.
The mission of IBO is: Impacting human lives and significantly contributing to conservation through a unique combination of cooperative research focusing on migratory birds, education, discovery of the natural world, and community engagement. Hummingbird banding is just one of their many projects.