Hummingbirds and Pollen Identification at Capulin Volcano National Monument

Hummingbirds and Pollen Identification at Capulin Volcano National Monument

Hummingbird enjoying a sweet treat at the feeder.

Here at Capulin Volcano we continue to monitor our migratory hummingbird species. So far we have only captured broad-tailed and black-chinned hummingbirds, but the rufous and calliope hummingbirds should be joining us shortly! Our feeders are now constantly being visited, and require even more frequent refilling of our sugar water.

We have also just started to see and capture juveniles, which means many more are soon to follow. Juveniles can be very difficult to identify by sight, as they often look identical to adult females to the naked eye. In order to  get a positive ID, it is necessary take measurements and use magnification glasses to inspect the tiny details that differentiate the two. The cool thing about banding a juvenile is that it means we have a way to track an individual bird from it’s first year (known as its hatch year). Each year we recapture the same bird, we not only have information on its measurements, but now also can determine its age! Because it is essentially impossible to tell the age of an adult hummingbird, banding it in its first year is the only way to accurately know its age over its lifespan.


One of the many plant species we collected pollen from- Opuntia phaeacantha

In addition to our regularly scheduled hummingbird monitoring, I have been hard at work on my Pollen Identification Guide. I have been spending a significant amount of time at my computer, doing research and writing protocols and methods for our monitoring

program. Having standardized, easy to follow written protocols are especially important in the National Park Service, where we often rely heavily on seasonal employees. This means that each summer there will be new people participating in the hummingbird monitoring, and it is critical that data is being collected in the same manner.

Included in my Pollen Identification Guide will be a Pollen Library, which is an image reference of pollen collected at Capulin. When we collect pollen from hummingbirds, we can match it to pollen collected from known plants This allows us to identify the unknown pollen collected from hummingbirds to the plant species they have visited. In other exciting news, this Saturday Capulin Volcano National Monument will be hosting our annual BioBlitz! I look forward to sharing those fun activities with you all next week!

Opuntia phaeacantha pollen sample under the microscope.


Opuntia phaeacantha pollen sample under the microscope.




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