Uinta Mountains host hummingbird banding event 

VERNAL — As hummingbirds are migrating through Utah this summer, you’ve most likely witnessed a few eating at a feeder or visiting some other nectaring spot for a midday meal. If you want to see these incredible birds up close, you should consider attending this upcoming Utah Division of Wildlife Resources event in northeastern Utah. 

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is partnering with retired Bureau of Land Management biologist Terry Tolbert and U.S. Forest Service biologist Lisa Young to host a hummingbird banding demonstration on Saturday, July 30, from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. The free event will be held at the Red Canyon Lodge at 2450 Red Canyon Road in Dutch John.

Female Black-chinned hummingbird. Photo: DWR.

People typically see five different species of hummingbirds in Utah: black-chinned, broad-tailed, calliope, rufous, and Costa’s. These are just a fraction of the 330 species found in the Western Hemisphere. The most commonly seen species in Utah are broad-tailed and black-chinned hummingbirds. But if you’re lucky, you can also spot the smallest bird native to North America — and a surprisingly long-distance migrant — the calliope hummingbird. This bird weighs as much as a penny and can travel up to 5,600 miles throughout a single year.  

During the event, the researchers capture the hummingbirds and then place a small band on one leg of each bird. These bands, little thicker than aluminum foil, are stamped with a unique number, giving each bird its own identification throughout its lifetime. The information gathered from the banding efforts helps biologists learn more about migration patterns and other crucial data about the birds. 

A male Rufous hummingbird comes in for a drink. Photo: Linda West.

“It’s a rare and unique opportunity to see Utah’s tiniest birds in hand and watch biologists gather baseline data to determine strategies for conserving these birds, their habitat, and future research needs,” DWR Northeastern Region Outreach Manager Tonya Kieffer-Selby said. “The population status of many hummingbird species is unknown. These banding efforts help educate our local community, and also help us collect information that may be crucial for making future management decisions.”

DWR biologists and staff will be available to explain the bird-banding process and answer questions about hummingbirds during the event. Participants are encouraged to bring a camera to get pictures of the hummingbirds. If you attend, you may also want to stop at the nearby Red Canyon visitor center. It’s a place where you can see other species of birds, and there’s a good chance of spotting the bighorn sheep herd near the Red Canyon overlook. 

“At this location, we’re hoping to see and band rufous hummingbirds as they are migrating through Utah during their July migration from Canada and Alaska,” Kieffer-Selby said. “Rufous hummingbirds can be found at these higher elevations and are some of the easiest to identify. They have a bright copper/orange color and can be found aggressively fighting over nectar resources, like Indian paintbrush and other local flowers. We’ll likely capture some broad-tailed and black-chinned hummingbirds during the event.”

In 2021, biologists banded over 80 hummingbirds — including four different species — at this event.

While the event is free, space is limited, so participants should sign up in advance on Eventbrite. 

“We don’t want to overwhelm the bander or the birds, so we are limiting the groups that this area can accommodate,” Kieffer-Selby said. 

Rufous female joins others at the watering hole. Photo: Preston Kadleck.

Attracting and feeding hummingbirds

Most hummingbirds migrate to warmer climates during the cold winter months and return to northern latitudes in the summer. Many travel thousands of miles in a single year during their annual migration cycle, and they are a welcome sight when they arrive in Utah. Feeding hummingbirds is fun for all ages and helps give a little extra boost to the high metabolisms of these world travelers. They are excellent pollinators and primarily feed on flower nectar, so planting native plants — like penstemon and bergamot — is a great way to attract them to your yard. 

“They will also consume small insects and spiders for protein, so be aware of the chemicals you spray around your nectar sources,” Kieffer-Selby said. “Many stores sell a premade ‘red-dye’ feed, but be aware that may not be the healthiest solution for these birds. A simple 1-to-4 sugar and water solution in a traditional red-colored feeder is often the more cost-effective way to feed them and is better for the birds overall.”

For more information about the upcoming event, call the DWR’s Northeastern Region office at 435-781-9453.

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