Ontario Hummingbird Festival at the Wye Marsh

Male Ruby-throated Hummingbird banded at Wye Marsh -- July 14, 2012

Male Ruby-throated Hummingbird banded at the Wye Marsh — July 14, 2012

I headed out for the Bird Banding at the Hummingbird Festival this morning. What an experience!

It took place over the weekend, July 12 – 14 at the Wye Marsh, near Midland, Ontario. (For directions, click here.) There were different workshops, but unfortunately they were all full by the time I found out about this festival a week ago. Workshops ranged in price from free to $45 and included the following: Hummingbird banding, Hummer/Bird Study Group presentation, Birding with children workshop, Build your own hummingbird attracting planter with native plants – (For kids), How to photograph hummingbirds and How to attract hummingbirds to your garden.

Bob getting a band ready for the first Hummingbird

Bob getting a band ready for the first Hummingbird

You can see the tiny, wee band in the end of the pliers

You can see the tiny, wee band in the end of the pliers

The banding was led by Bob and Martha Sargent of the Hummer/Bird Study Group, based in Alabama. Bob and Martha are very down to earth people who enjoy sharing their passion, humour and knowledge with others. They are one of the top authorities on Hummingbird banding and train many others. Bob has an amazing knowledge of hummingbirds; I could have listened to his stories all day. His passion for these tiny creatures is evident — he even started to get emotional when talking about the hummingbird’s struggle for survival and reproduction. Their mission for the festival was to band birds (for study/research purposes), but also to educate the public about the challenges that Hummers face.

Some of what I learned today:

  • Hummingbirds do not pair. They stay together long enough to fertilize an egg, then the female does all the work — building a nest, keeping eggs warm, finding food and raising the young.
  • Their main source of food is bugs, not nectar or sugar-water.
  • They live only in the Americas and can be found from Alaska down to Chili.
  • They can fly up to 50 mph to escape a potential predator.
  • Their resting heart rate is 250 beats/minute and their feeding heart rate is 1200 beats/minute!!
  • The proper Hummingbird juice mix is 4 parts water to 1 part white sugar. No food colouring.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see a lot of Hummingbirds today (Bob thinks it may be a little too early in the season for this region), but they did catch and band two. The first was a male Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris):

Banding the first bird

Banding the first bird

Taking some measurements

Taking some measurements

All finished!

All finished!

Releasing the hummingbird with the help of a young birder. Bob tapped the bottom of the girl's hand and in an instant, the hummingbird has flown away.

Releasing the hummingbird with the help of a young birder. Bob tapped the bottom of the girl’s hand and in an instant, the hummingbird had flown away.

The second Ruby-throated Hummingbird was a female. Bob said that she had most likely laid an egg in the previous 24 hours and judging by her weight, she probably had another one to lay:

Hummer #2 -- female

Hummer #2 — female

The wee weight-in

The wee weight-in

Getting ready for take off. She was gone less than a second after this photo was taken.

Getting ready for take off. She was gone less than a second after this photo was taken.

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2 thoughts on “Ontario Hummingbird Festival at the Wye Marsh

  1. Interesting that Bob thought July might be a bit early for Hummingbirds in this area. That feels consistent with what I’ve experienced in Toronto and up north in Muskoka – though the few Ontario migration studies I skimmed on the internet seemed to indicate otherwise (ie., that Hummingbird males arrive in April/May). Did he say anything else on arrival timing in these parts? Just curious.

    greg

    • Some hummingbirds do arrive that early, but they keep migrating north. He did say that many of them could’ve been wiped out this year because of the cold spring. But, I think he was saying that if they delayed the festival for another week, they would have more hummingbirds because it would be the peak of the season. If you’re not seeing hummingbirds, it’s could because they’re eating bugs rather than drinking from feeders.

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