Bird Banding and the Western Hummingbird Partnership

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SourDough News | May 13, 2013

 

Hummingbird trap
Gwen Baluss removes captured male Rufous hummingbird for measuring and banding at the Jenson-Olson Arboretum. Photo by Cheryl Carrothers.

Hummingbird landing in a hand
Gwen Baluss releases a recently banded female Rufous hummingbird. Photo by Cheryl Carrothers.

The Western Hummingbird Partnership (WHP) is a U.S. Forest Service-initiated network of partners collaborating to build an effective and sustainable hummingbird conservation program through science-based monitoring, research, habitat restoration/enhancement, and education/outreach efforts.  Hummingbirds found in the United States are also found in Mexico and five species (Rufous, Calliope, Anna’s, Black-chinned, and Ruby-throated) also occur regularly in Canada, with at least two species (Rufous and Anna’s) extending into Alaska.

 

The Gulf Coast of Alaska is the northern edge of the breeding range for the Rufous Hummingbird which includes coastal Alaska, British Columbia, and the Pacific Northwest. The wintering grounds are in Mexico and the southern U.S. An adult female, originally banded in Tallahassee, FL. on 13 January 2010, was recaptured by Kate McLaughlin at Chenega Bay on 28 June 2010 as part of the Chenega Bay Rufous Hummingbird Banding Project. Kate notes that this 3,500+ mile trip marks the longest migration ever documented for a hummingbird. A recently published paper by Jonathan Moran indicated hummingbirds captured in Juneau by Gwen Baluss from the Juneau Ranger District were overwintering in Mexico. These interesting and contrasting results have fueled two WHP pilot banding projects in Alaska this summer.

 

Baluss is leading our Juneau banding effort. She has feeders and associated banding stations established at the Jensen-Olson Arboretum and the Juneau Community Garden. Gwen and assorted volunteers like Cathy Pohl began trapping at both locations in late April and expect to continue their efforts through June and later if there are still hummingbirds in the area.

 

Erin Cooper from the Cordova Ranger District on the Chugach National Forest is the Forest Service lead for our other banding pilot. Cooper is collaborating with Kate McLaughlin from the Chenega Bay Rufous Hummingbird Banding Project, who will be banding in Cordova on May 18 and 19.

 

In addition to our increasing our understanding of Alaska hummingbirds, their local ecology and migration, interest has grown in the interactions between hummingbirds and their food resources including nectar producing flowers because of the potential impacts of climate change. Multiple efforts are currently underway to utilize citizen scientists in helping us collect data on hummingbirds, their forage plants and other foods utilized.

 

For more information, visit www.westernhummingbird.org.

 

By Cheryl Carrothers, Alaska Regional Wildlife Program Leader