Gone Fishing (for Birds)

Gone Fishing (for Birds)

The moment you’ve all been waiting for has arrived!  As I write this blog, I’ve completed my first day of hummingbird banding training! It’s a lot of fun to capture hummingbirds, and easier than you might think.  Handling them is another story.  In order to catch them, we use what are called Hall traps.  They’re very straightforward and it’s sort of like fishing. The actual trap itself is a cylindrical mesh net that hangs halfway down over a hummingbird feeder.  The release is attached to a long string and the far end of that string is where one (henceforth referred to as the “hummingbird fisherperson”) sits when he or she is trying to catch a hummingbird.  When a hummer lands on the feeder, the hummingbird fisherperson releases a clamp that drop the net over the hummer. 

Once trapped in the mesh net, the hummingbird fisherperson reaches his or her hand under the net and attempts to pin the bird gently against the side of the net.  This part is really tricky as he or she is trying to move their hand quickly to keep up with the bird, but gently enough to not hurt the bird.  Once pinned, the hummingbird fisherperson grasps the bird with the ends of his or her fingers and places the bird in a small mesh bag for transfer to the banding station.  Once there, some measurements of the bird are taken and recorded.  If the bird does not have a band, one is attached to its leg (they are designed to not irritate the bird). 

 If it does have one, the measurements are recorded and the bird is looked up to see if it has been here before.  This project is really important because Capulin is along a major migratory path for several species of hummingbirds, so we frequently encounter already-banded birds, which is great!  In theory, we should see changes in the timing of their migration pattern over the long-term as the earth heats up.  This causes plants to bloom earlier, meaning the birds will have to change their migration timing to stay well-fed on their long migratory trips.


The bird in the photos is a black-chinned hummingbird.  Photo credits to Isaac Rubinstein NPS

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