Interestingly, the scenario suggested by Lanny is exactly what happened a few years ago in Colorado . . . when Colorado's first BROAD-BILLED Hummingbird showed up and was captured for banding, the bird was found to have been banded in Louisiana by Nancy Newfield!!!

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Sebastian T. Patti
(Lincoln Park)
Chicago, ILLINOIS 60614-3354
PHONE: 312/603-4416 (o) 773/248-0570 (h)
FAX: 312/603-2041 (o) 773/248-0264 (h)


Date: Mon, 16 Jun 2008 13:35:54 -0500
From: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Bander's Response
To: [log in to unmask]

Begin forwarded message:

From: Lanny Chambers <[log in to unmask]>

Date: June 16, 2008 12:49:15 PM CDT

To: Edge Wade <[log in to unmask]>

Subject: Broad-tailed Hummingbird banding

Hi, Edge.

I'm not a member of the MOBIRDS list, so I'm writing you directly. I understand your frustration. I'm happy to explain, and please forgive the excruciating detail if you're already familiar with the issues:

I didn't capture Bill Reeves' Broad-tailed to confirm its ID; as you say, that wasn't necessary. My motivation was the possibility of reading an existing band. Bear with me for a bit...

Some individuals of many western hummingbird species winter in the southeastern U.S., returning year after year (confirmed by banding). This is an interesting phenomenon, because it suggests a mitigating "Plan B" strategy in the event a species' traditional Mexican winter range becomes compromised due to deforestation, global warming, or other reasons. The Rufous we see in Missouri each fall aren't lost or out of range any more than the warblers we see passing through the state to breed in Canada; they're migrating on what, to them, is a normal route. The difference between warblers and hummingbirds is a matter of numbers, plus the challenge of seeing hummingbirds after most folks take their feeders down.

Banders in the southeast are banding as many winter hummingbirds as possible, including Broad-tailed. From a wildlife management perspective, it's useful to know to what extent these hummingbird subpopulations offer a hedge against problems their mainstream conspecifics may face in the future. As more hummingbird banders are trained and certified, the data mounts and insights emerge.

However, there is almost no data about the routes these hummingbirds take migrating between their winter and breeding ranges. That's mainly because there are so few hummingbird banders in the middle of the continent. In June, a Broad-tailed in Missouri is probably heading west to breed after wintering in the Gulf states, and the odds of it wearing a band are much higher than normal. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case this time, but on December 1, 2001, I captured a Rufous in Ann McCormack's yard that had been banded in Louisiana the previous winter; that Rufous had been scoped, videotaped, and generally ogled by scores if not hundreds of birders since its arrival in early October, and not one person had seen the band. That recapture helped to quell a long-running debate over migration routes.

If I had not caught Bill's Broad-tailed, I would have squandered an opportunity and failed my banding colleagues who are working hard to learn more about alternate hummingbird migration strategies. The answer to low data rates isn't to give up, it's to catch more birds.

I thought carefully about when to try capturing this bird. As a migrant enroute to breed--and probably a bit behind schedule--the longer it stays, the more likely each sighting will be the last, closing the window for both birding and science whether it's trapped or not. Like birders, banders miss "one-day wonders" all the time. As a compromise, I decided to wait until evening, since migrant hummingbirds routinely depart in the morning, and at least some birders would have seen the bird before it was trapped. I'm truly sorry you weren't among them. Additionally, at the time it looked like it might rain Sunday, and wet hummers are more likely to lose feathers so I don't trap in the rain. It's hard to get away during the work week.

It's true that some hummingbirds won't return to a feeder after banding, at least not right away. It's also true that some individuals return so quickly and so frequently that they become pests when we're trying to catch unbanded birds. It seems a matter of individual temperament, and isn't predictable, but nearly all of the western hummers I've banded have returned to the same feeder within 15 minutes of removing the trap.

Another factor may be important here as well: a particularly-aggressive male Ruby-throated was harassing the hapless Broad-tailed and chasing it all over Bill's yard, including through the woods behind the house. Every time the BTLH approached the feeder, it'd be met with a mid-air body slam. After I tripped the trap to catch it, the RTHU began bouncing off the mesh, trying to get at it from the outside. I was amazed the Broad-tailed hadn't already left to find a less-stressful source of food, or at least toned down its wing whistle and gone into stealth mode.

Sorry this was so long, and I hope it came across as informative and not patronizing. Birders and banders need each other, and compromise is always a work-in-progress. Your comments matter to me! Please let me know if I can provide more info.

Lanny Chambers

St. Louis, MO

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