Hummingbirds are indicators of the earth's ecosystem health and are facing many ecological challenges that will predispose them to disease and health risks.
Why Hummingbirds Need Help
Hummingbirds are magical creatures, once revered in the Aztec pantheon, and a backyard delight for modern-day, ordinary humans. These charming acrobatic birds enchant us, and in reciprocation, we entice hummingbirds, either with a feeder, flower rich gardens, or red apparel—or all three—to visit us. But the truth is, we have always needed hummingbirds because as pollinators they provide critical ecosystem services as they flit from one flower to another in quick succession over large distances, consuming nectar and thousands of minute insects. Unfortunately, now hummingbirds need our help because habitat loss, fragmentation of breeding and wintering grounds, and climate change can have negative impacts on hummingbird health and nutrition. Until now, minimal research has been done evaluating hummingbird diseases and determining which risk factors impact their reproduction, nutrition, and health.
Who We Are
The UC Davis Hummingbird Health and Conservation Program was originally established by wildlife veterinary geneticist, Dr. Holly Ernest (now at The University of Wyoming). Dr. Lisa Tell '87, DVM '91, an avian disease veterinarian and federally permitted hummingbird master bander, is currently the director of the program. She and a team of volunteer citizen scientists and college students focus on establishing scientific data, which is used to help sustain healthy hummingbird populations.
In order to gently and non-invasively capture hummingbirds traps are placed around hummingbird feeders. No birds are ever harmed or killed for the studies. Important bird data is gathered, Dr. Tell examines the tiny, feisty birds, and a few feathers are collected 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.
Since the program was established, Drs. Tell and Ernest have:
- Educated numerous undergraduate & graduate students on avian wildlife health and conservation
- Performed non-invasive sampling for health related research studies
- Made the first definitive diagnosis of avian pox virus in Anna’s hummingbirds
- Established a sample and data repository for numerous hummingbird species
- Published manuscripts in peer reviewed journals
How Your Support Will Help Hummingbirds
Your support will help hummingbirds get health checks and an identification band.
The data from the health checks will be used to establish hummingbird health parameters. In addition to helping the birds, your funding will be substantially leveraged with participation of undergraduate and graduate UC Davis students within a variety of disciplines.DONATE NOW
If you would prefer not to use a credit card, please feel free to snail mail your donation to:
UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine
Dean’s Office – Development
PO Box 1167
Davis, CA 95617-1167
Please note “Hummingbird Health and Conservation Program” on your check.