Hummingbird Banding in Michigan


Hummingbird banding requires special permits from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Bird Banding Laboratory, and in Michigan also from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.  Permits are issued only to qualified individuals with an acceptable Research Plan and the endorsement of three references (other banders or ornithologists) who can vouch for the applicants abilities and intentions.

Banding birds requires specific training for handling birds, placing metal bands (each uniquely numbered) safely and quickly on their legs, capture techniques, identification techniques, age-sex determination techniques, data collection, and annual reporting of data to the Bird Banding Laboratory.  Banding hummingbirds is more specialized than the banding of songbirds, and several years of experience with songbirds is often preferred before an applicant will be granted a hummingbird banding permit. 

In addition to the specialized handling and banding techniques required for banding hummingbirds, it is necessary for the bands to be formed by the bander, rather than receiving them finished from the Banding Laboratory.  Bands are delivered to the hummingbird bander on thin aluminum sheets, from which they must be carefully cut, rough edges sanded smooth, and formed into a band.

Currently, there are about 80 banders holding permits to do hummingbirds in North America, out of a total of perhaps 2500 bird banders.  I am currently the only hummingbird bander in Michigan, and also have permits for Ohio and Ontario.  Other nearby hummingbird banders are working in Wisconsin, southern Illinois, Ohio, and eastern Pennsylvania.  Most hummingbird banders are concentrated in the southeastern U.S., the Gulf Coast, and the western U.S.  Only a handful of hummingbird banders are working in the Upper Midwest, where we hope to unlock a few more of the Ruby-throated Hummingbird's secrets!

I would like to thank Rick Neubig, Carl Pascoe, and Mike Perrin for allowing me to use their photos to supplement my own in this section.