Birds and More | All Blogs


By Nic.Korte

“You’re kidding!” I said. “Really? She wants to go?” I was discussing my grand-daughter Zia with my daughter, Ann. I had called that morning and suggested Zia accompany me to watch hummingbirds being banded. Zia is only 6, but already, despite my best efforts (honestly!), she has become wary of birding excursions. As expected, when I called initially, she had responded negatively. Somehow though, she had thought it over and changed her mind. I said I’d be right over.

Zia didn’t know what an opportunity she had accepted. Many of my friends and relatives, being casual birders or less, believe I’m some sort of savant or super-expert when it comes to birds. I protest, but they consider it false modesty. Now, though, I was, indeed, taking Zia to visit some masters.

Stop and think. Everyone is familiar with the idea of banding birds. You catch them in a net and put a band around a leg. Nothing to it. (Actually, a lot of training and licensing is required.)  But what about hummingbirds? Think how small their legs are. Not only that, their legs are fragile. Have you ever seen a hummingbird walk? I haven’t either. It is because they can’t. How does one even catch them? Netting such a tiny bird seems fraught with opportunities for injury.

Grand Junction is fortunate to have among its citizens Steve and Debbie Bouricius. Of the approximately 6000 licensed bird banders in the US and Canada, only approximately 80 are licensed for hummingbirds.

 (This male Calliope Hummingbird, as photographed by Jackson Trappett, wasn’t banded. Steve Bouricius reports, however, that this has been a good year for immature and female Calliope Hummingbirds—uncommon fall migrants in the Grand Valley.)

With so few banders, most of the equipment used is handmade or one of a few. Steve and Debbie have accumulated a number of tools described as “one of five” or the like. Much of their setup is of their own design. For example, I have watched a lot of other bird banding. Bands are obtained from the appropriate authorities, the correct size is determined, and the band is attached to the bird’s leg with a special tool. It isn’t so easy with hummingbirds. The bands are so small and fragile, they are best made as needed. Much of the time while we visited, Steve or Debbie sat carefully making bands with their nearly-uniquie tools while the other handled the birds.
(Zia watches Steve prepare the bands)

Steve and Debbie have a central station with a series of binder clips attached to fishing line. Cages with large doors have been fashioned around standard hummingbird feeders. When a hummingbird is feeding in the cage, the doors are lowered with the fishing line. Doors are slowly shut to ensure that one of the small birds is not trapped against the wire. Once trapped, the hummingbird is carefully grabbed and then put in a small bag from which it is measured and banded.

 (Zia holds one of the more than 10,000 hummingbirds banded by Steve and Debbie since 1999)

I learned a lot by seeing the birds so close. This time of year, most of the easily-identifiable, full-plumaged males are already south of us, leaving the sometimes difficult task of identifying immature birds. Steve and Debbie were able to show me the fine points of identification.

As for Zia, I couldn’t persuade her to leave. She enjoyed watching scientists at work as they carefully handled the birds and made measurements. I was able to explain to her how Steve and Debbie are doing important research by helping to examine distribution patterns and population changes. Indeed, their orchard, which hosts several Black-chinned Hummingbird nests each summer, is yielding interesting data regarding nesting patterns and nest-site fidelity.

(Several times, Zia’s hand was used as the launching pad when it was time for a bird to be released.) 

Possibly more important than the research, however, is the educational aspect of Steve and Debbie’s work. They clearly enjoy sharing the experience of hummingbirds through presentations, seminars, and banding demonstrations (at their home and at the Annual Sedona, AZ. Hummingbird Festival)—just ask my grand-daughter!

This post provided by Nic Korte, Grand Valley Audubon Society. Send questions/comments to [To learn more and to participate in the activities of Grand Valley Audubon, please see our website at and “like” us on Facebook!]


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