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Alex Chadwick in Big Bend: Banding Hummingbirds

They sound like little motors in overdrive!
© Alex Chadwick View Large

BirdNote contributor Alex Chadwick visited the outskirts of Big Bend National Park in Texas to meet with Kelly Bryan, a retired park manager and biologist who spends his days placing tiny bands on hummingbirds to better know their habits. Kelly has banded more than 14,000 birds!

Funding for the BirdNote series on Big Bend National Park comes from Deedie and Rusty Rose.

Full Transcript

Transcript: 

BirdNote®
Alex Chadwick at Big Bend - Banding Hummingbirds

BirdNote contributor Alex Chadwick visited the outskirts of Big Bend National Park in Texas to meet with retired park manager and biologist, Kelly Bryan. Kelly spends his days placing bands on hummingbirds to better know their habits.

Alex Chadwick: I’m watching Kelly work with the birds…tiny, colorful, delicate…held carefully in his blunt, working hands. He’s banded more than 14,000 hummingbirds, he says, and never injured one. He’s about to release this one.

KB: I'm gonna hold it up to your ear... Sounds like a little motor in overdrive, doesn't it?

AC: The bands are very small, uniquely numbered strips of aluminum, and one goes around one small bird leg above the foot.

KB: The human heart beats about 70-80 beats per minute. Even at rest, the hummingbird's heart is beatin' 7-800 beats a minute. And this little bird's probably at about 1200 beats a minute now.

Kelly studies hummingbirds by banding legs and keeping data on each one.

KB: Okay, here comes the first bird….gonna reach into this bag. And the thing about hummingbirds is you've got to maintain control of them.

AC:  It can be unnerving to see a captured hummingbird, vulnerable and wide-eyed. Kelly has his fingers over the shoulders, to stop the wings beating. He slips a tiny numbered band on a leg, measures length of feathers and the bill, and then weighs the bird.

KB: You could put about eight of these birds in an envelope and mail 'em.

AC: Eight to an ounce.

Deleted: KB: I don’t know if you know it or not… You know, John James Audubon was the first person to band a bird in the United States. So he recognized, back in the 1850s, the importance of having a bird tagged in some way.

AC: Audubon, the founder of American ornithology, naturalist, artist, bird-bander, in a line that now also counts Kelly Bryan in Southwest Texas, ready to release his latest subject.

KB: He's done –- and he goes bye-bye.

AC: For BirdNote, this is Alex Chadwick in Big Bend National Park.

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Funding for this BirdNote series on Big Bend National Park comes from Deedie and Rusty Rose.

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Written and presented by Alex Chadwick
Original piece produced by Katie Davis
Original field recording and mixing by Flawn Williams
Short version of story re-produced and re-mixed by John Kessler
Executive Producer Dominic Black

© 2014 Tune In to Nature.org       November 2018

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