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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

My hummingbird adventure

Banding the bird I later held

I felt her rapid heartbeat but I couldn't feel her weight. Her brilliance captivated me as she paused in my hand for a few seconds before flying away. I was completely smitten.

Kelly Bryan had just banded the 4-gram bird with a tiny numbered band. The silver jewelry around her leg will permit future banders and birders to identify her and track her behavior.

Each little ring is a band
The 50-degree morning, cold for the Texas Rio Grande Valley, didn't stop a couple dozen avid admirers from appreciating the beauty of the hummingbirds that were banded. While we watched, Kelly captured several buff-bellied and ruby-throated females and one ruby-throated male.

After he had secured the band, he conducted several measurements before giving the bird a much-appreciated drink. The hummingbirds needed the energy to fly away afterward. Several of us willingly volunteered to hold the birds in our hands until they oriented themselves and flew back to freedom. Kelly treated the birds with loving care, keeping them as short a time as possible.

As we watched, Kelly regaled us with stories of his 50-year banding experience. The thrill of recapturing and following some of the same birds keeps him coming back year after year. In some instances, he has found the bird in multiple locations across the country. This week he has banded hummingbirds at Estero Llano Grande State Park in Weslaco, as well as a private home and the Hugh Ramsey Nature Center in Harlingen.

The data from each banding is stored in an international database giving scientists, researchers and birders information on the habits, migration and lifespans of the birds.

It's now hours later and the enchantment has not lessened. It's a life experience to hold such a tiny, beautiful creature in the palm of your hand. Do you think I should ever wash my hand again?
She gets her jewelry

A male ruby-throated hummingbird