Today was another fantastic day in the field. Our RFID team caught 9 hummingbirds and put tags on most of them. We can now test out our readers in the wild to see if we really can record hummingbird movements. Evan and Bridget are hard at work on a feeder design that will maximize the chance that hummingbirds will activate the readers (and check in at our sites).
We have also been working on an interesting problem that we stumbled across a few years ago when doing a pollination experiment with a tropical flower species (Heliconia tortuosa). Human pollination is supposed to be a great baseline for ‘perfect pollination’. You can use this as a comparison to see how much less natural levels of pollination might be – due to bee declines, habitat loss or any number of factors. Our problem was that when we tried to artificially pollinate Heliconia, it didn’t work…at all. Hummingbirds, on the other hand, seemed to have no trouble; about 40% of the flowers visited by hummingbirds show signs of eventually producing fruit (pollination is required to do this). So, we’ve been designing a series of scientific experiments to find out what hummingbirds might be doing to make the flower fertile. I will tell you more about these later, but for now, look at the video and give us your ideas. What do you notice about the way the green hermit hummingbird visits the flower?
Here is a video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OrINYjD3tN8&feature=youtu.be
Species of the Day: Violet Sabrewing! This is my favorite hummingbird species. It is the largest hummingbird around here, weighing about 12 grams (our Anna’s hummingbirds are about 3.5 grams). Unfortunately, this photo doesn’t do it justice at all. In flight, its throat (gorget) flashes much brighter purple.