Two hummingbirds in flight, visiting flowersBanding Program

In order to gently and non-invasively capture hummingbirds, a team of volunteers and students place traps around hummingbird feeders on private homeowner properties. No birds are ever harmed or killed for the studies. Important data is gathered about the  birds’ species and gender,  bill and wing length, body fat and weight, and molt stage.  Dr. Tell also examines the tiny, feisty birds to find out how healthy they are, and carefully collects a few feathers for sample analysis. The birds are given an ankle bracelet, better known as a North American Bird Banding Laboratory approved leg band (so scientists can identify individual birds when caught along their migration route), and provided a hearty meal of nectar (while held in the hand of a human) before being set free. Only federally permitted hummingbird banders are allowed to band hummingbirds.

Reasons for Banding

Bird banding is a widespread and essential research technique for studying the activity, lifecycle and behavior of birds. “The North American Bird Banding Program is jointly administered by the United States Geological Survey and the Canadian Wildlife Service. Their respective banding offices have similar functions and policies and use the same bands, reporting forms and data formats. Joint coordination of the program dates back to 1923 (Bird Banding Laboratory).” For more information, visit the Bird Banding Laboratory Website.

Uses of Banding Data

Banding data is very important for establishing estimates and analysis of population parameters, helping us understand the history and populations of diverse species. This information informs our knowledge of management activity, such as assessing the effects of habitat change.