Allen has banded hundreds of hummingbirds and thousands of songbirds over the years. One of the Rufous Hummingbirds he banded in Ohio showed up a year later in the panhandle of Florida. In between the bird most likely flew back to Oregon, Washington or British Columbia for the nesting season. That’s a lot of travel for such a tiny bird. Some readers may remember that in late 2009, Allen banded another hummingbird near Walnut Creek, a bird that turned out to be the first-ever record for Ohio of an Allen’s Hummingbird (not named after our Allen!)
The banding day was sunny and nice after a number of wet days. Allen set up his table with all the banding equipment, then hung a feeder inside a specially modified wire cage. A trap door allows the hummingbirds to enter the cage and get to the feeder. A wireless device then drops the cage door. The rest is easy! Years of experience means that the bander can quickly get all the information needed and release the hummingbird with a minimum of stress to the bird.
The Rufous Hummingbird made a quick visit to the cage but couldn’t seem to find the opening. It then flew off and before long the Ruby-throated arrived and after several quick flights around the cage, found its way inside. Several minutes later the bird was held gently by Allen who announced that this was a young male, a “hatch year” bird. As soon as he saw the bird, Allen said that this was one fat hummer. The scales confirmed that, as the bird was about 30 percent heavier than normal – a very good thing because that fat is just what a hummer needs to make a trip to Mexico, which might be via Texas or possibly across the Gulf of Mexico. The fact that the Ruby-throated didn’t return to the feeders most likely means that it headed south, already a month behind others of its kind.
After the excitement of the first banding, we all settled in to wait for the return of the Rufous. There was time to look at some of the excellent photos that the Weavers had taken over the last week. Eventually the Rufous came back and this time found the way in through the trapdoor. Soon it too received its band. Allen confirmed that it was an adult female Rufous Hummingbird and the weight was normal, meaning that it might need to do more feeding on nectar and insects before leaving Holmes County.
I live just down the hill from the Weavers and the very next morning the Rufous showed up at my feeder. Allen informed me that the bird most likely had known about this alternate food supply all along. We don’t know how long it will stay but Rufous Hummingbirds are quite cold tolerant, several having survived in Ohio until at least late December.
Published: October 26, 2011