Gems in Flight

Banding Idaho’s Hummingbirds

By Scott Fugit

Photos by Dee Fugit

Have you ever felt a hummingbird’s beating heart?” The answer was easy for my wife Dee and me. Never.

We were at our Wilderness Ranch home, about halfway between Boise and Idaho City, helping Fred Bassett of Hummingbird Research Inc., an Alabama- based organization dedicated to promoting the conservation of hummingbirds through research and education. I had met Fred while birdwatching near my place, and we quickly got onto the subject of hummingbirds. Just as quickly, I invited him to our house for a banding session. Our first captive was now in hand.

Fred gently held the female calliope, the smallest bird in North America at just two-and-three-quarters inches long, its tiny breast resting perfectly on the pad of my index finger. It didn’t feel like a heartbeat, it was more like a vibration. At 350 beats per minute, she was relaxed.

“They will get up to 1,250 a minute when they’re feeding,” he said.

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