By Ned and Gigi Batchelder
Many of us observe birds in the area with interest, but when it pertains to hummingbirds, it becomes a distinct level of curiosity. As volunteer citizen scientists for US Fish and Wildlife, we have chronicled many intriguing bits of information in eight states about the hummingbird’s migration, breeding and longevity. Even today, the Anna’s and Costa’s movement behaviors are not well documented, nor understood. With the assistance of homeowners, 23 nests of Costa’s, Anna’s, and Black-chinned hummingbirds were confirmed to breed/nest here in Mesquite during January through July. These nests were observed and monitored in Mesquite with 75% successfully fledging young, with some females raising two consecutive broods.
Hummingbirds consume many tiny insects containing vital protein, vitamins and minerals, flower nectar, as well as occasional drinks from sugar-water feeders.
Mesquite and Beaver Dam areas are our current focus to expand upon our 11 years of banding research with daily observations of these little colorful flying jewels. With the unique partnering efforts and cooperation of 25 homeowners who diligently maintain feeders, an abundance of data has been recorded about this lesser studied, tiny, and seemingly sometimes fearless bird.
With a rigid protocol of catch, band, and safe release back into the wild, approximately 3,000 individual hummingbirds were banded during the last 12 months, including five species. Anna’s and Costa’s, considered resident species, are present in the Mesquite area all year.
Black-chinned arrive in April and breed/nest in small numbers in Mesquite. The rowdy Rufous species appears at feeders by early July migrating through the Virgin Valley corridor on their way to their wintering grounds in central Mexico. A more unusual Calliope species also migrated through NW Mesquite.
As we usually find with our banding research, homeowners are amazed by the high number of hummingbirds that they host in their yards. Because these tiny birds look alike, the process of banding offers a more accurate count of the true population size. Many hummingbirds are recaptured, some up to 7 times. It is these special reencountered birds that yield info about their site/territory fidelity, patterns of movement and longevity.
All banding data is reported to federal and state agencies and will be valuable in determining future bird range maps.
Ned, a master hummingbird bander, and wife, Gigi, of 36 years, are driven by a passion for learning more about hummingbirds. Mentored by the late, Bob Sargent of Alabama, they are self taught and specially permitted by both federal and state agencies.
Now retired, and focusing upon the Costa’s and Anna’s species, they have resided in Mesquite since Oct. 2013, after relocating from Ivins, Utah. As longtime bird enthusiasts, they began their volunteer hummingbird research in Red Lodge, Montana in 2001.