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Old Jun 21, 2004, 10:47 AM   #1
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Birders and bird banders in North America often use four letter codes to abbreviate the names of birds. The naming convention of the USGS Bird Banding Laboratory specifies how these codes are determined from the bird names. "BCHU" stands for Black-chinned Hummingbird, and the subject of this photo, a young male, calmly awaits as his weight is measured. At 3.5 grams, or 1/8th ounce, he is somewhat heavier than his mother and fully one gram heavier than a breeding season adult male. Nestlings are well fed for rapid growth as they spend only about 17-21 days in the nest after hatching. By the way, we know this bird is a male because of the darker spots in the throat and because of a minute notch in his sixth primary wing feather.

This particular bird had a wing length of 36 millimeters, the tail was 16.5 mm, and a bill length of 16.7 mm. He now wears a tiny aluminum band on his left leg with the unique number, N14833. Hummer bands are quite small and require good eyesight to apply. I make bands in five sizes for different species and sexes. They run from 5.4 to 7.8 mm before forming round, and a finished closed band for a male BCHU is about 1.2 mm high and 0.9 mm inside diameter. It is worn loose like a bracelet on it's leg, and proportionately, the weight is comparable to a wrist watch on a 150 lb. man.

So how's this for a wildlife experience? )

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Old Jun 21, 2004, 12:56 PM   #2
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I love it, Hummer!

And at the weight of that bird, it's a pretty sure bet that you have to account for the weight of the gauze that it is being weighed on. :-)

And of course, the scale has to be one which is precision for small weight measurement.

For researching these little guys, everythinghas to be specialized! Tell me, when you are trying to catch adults or birds that have fledged, rather than nestlings that you can just lift out of the nest, what is the mistnetting procedure? The mistnet must have quite small holes and I imagine that you must have to be in attendance at the net constantly as these high metabolism birds couldn't possibly survive being in the net for too long unattended.
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Old Jun 22, 2004, 3:57 PM   #3
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The piece of paper towel the hummingbird is on weighs about 0.9 grams so we do have to tare the scale before weighing the bird. We found that the young ones don't like the slick plastic surface of the scale and struggle for a grip. The little bit of paper gives them something to get their claws into so they easily remain upright and calm. They are also prolific poopers, so the towel keeps the scale clean.

The eyesight and quick reactions of a hummingbird are so keen that they usually see a mist net and can stop before flying into it. So we use a finer, smaller mesh net arranged in a trapezoid with a roof. With flowers and a feeder inside, we rush the net, crowding the bird into the net and immediately removing it. We also use a variety of other innovative traps constructed of cloth and cage wire. Each has their purpose for different situations.

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Old Jun 23, 2004, 12:34 AM   #4
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I certainly hadn't considered the "pooping" reason for the gauze, but it makes great sense...

Yet another thing I learn - hummingbird senses and reactions are just too keen to allow for normal use of mist netting techniques. Sounds like your technique is a little less traumatic for the bird also. My memories of mist netting smaller passerines was that they would sometimes get so worked up while trying to extricate themselves from the net that they would end up getting themselves extremely entangled. Trying to get them unentangled was sometimes an ordeal. One also learned to be very careful about handling birds with strong beaks, such as cardinals, especially if you valued retaining a whole 10 fingers - probably not an issue with hummers :-)
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