In the banding process, birds are fitted with a light-weight aluminum band that is inscribed with a unique number . Most bands are sent from the Bird Banding Laboratory to the bander in strings of 100. The band is formed into a ring by the manufacturer and must be opened by the bander and then closed again around the bird's leg. Each species gets a pre-determined band size so that the band is neither too tight nor too loose.

All photos © Bill Hilton Jr.

A string of one hundred Size 2 butt bands (left), as issued by the Bird Banding Laboratory. These bands would fit the leg of a bird such as an American Robin or Brown Thrasher.

Standard bird bands vary in diameter from about 0.3mm to 35mm, but hummingbird bands (below) are a whole different story. Their bands are so small they are photoengraved on a flat sheet of aluminum that is so thin the bander simply snips out each band with a pair of scissors.

Sheets of three hundred hummingbird bands!

A strip of ten bands (right) must be cut from the sheet, and then an individual band is cut from the ribbon, . . .

. . . filed smooth, and . . .

. . . formed into a round "butt band" on a special jig.

All Photos © Bill Hilton Jr.

Then the hummingbird band is filed to remove any rough edges and formed--with a special jig--into a standard ring that can be placed on the hummingbird's VERY short leg. This is tedious, exacting work and is one reason why there are so few hummingbird banders.

An individual hummingbird band weighs less than one-hundredth of a gram--about 6-7 milligrams! By comparison to a hummingbird's weight, a band is roughly equivalent to that of a gold wristwatch and band on a human--something people get used to very quickly. Since hummers do not pick at bands after they are applied it's probable the birds likewise become used to their new jewelry. A properly applied band has no apparent effect on the bird's safety or behavior and allows us to gather valuable information about hummingbirds that can be acquired in no other way.

Back to Who Bands Birds and Why; forward to Capturing Hummingbirds

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