We have all been back from Costa Rica for a few months it seems like quite a while since we were last in the field working with hummingbirds. However, on the weekend we started what will hopefully a long-term monitoring site collecting data as part of the Hummingbird Monitoring Network. The Hummingbird Monitoring Network works to research, monitor, and preserve hummingbirds. We are happy to be working more closely with them. We felt that it was time to begin some long-term research here in Oregon since according to breeding bird survey data Rufous hummingbirds (Selasphorus rufus) are declining at a rate of nearly 3% per year. This is faster than the spotted owl declines for the same period! Clearly we need to take a closer look.
We captured hummingbirds at the H.J. Andrews experimental forest headquarters during a five-hour period beginning shortly after dawn. This first capture session was very successful despite battling a thick cloud of no-see-ums*. We were able to band 22 hummingbirds. In Oregon we don’t have nearly as many species as we do in Costa Rica and on this particular morning we only captured representatives from a single species – the Rufous hummingbird. At the site we have also seen Anna’s hummingbirds (Calypte anna) and Calliope Hummingbirds (Selasphorus calliope) so it is possible that on a future capture session we might get one of these.
A female Rufous (Photos by Sarah Hadley)
Photo by Adam Hadley
In addition to adding a Hummingbird Monitoring site within Oregon these capture efforts will be helpful to other research projects we have within the area. Marked birds will help us answer questions relating to phenology**, inter-annual survival rates, inter-patch movements within nearby alpine meadows, and dispersal distances. Once combined with the RFID tracking techniques and systems that we have developed in our Costa Rica efforts we hope to shed some light on important aspects of Rufous hummingbird ecology.
*no-see-ums are type of tiny biting midges in the family Ceratopogonidae.
The females of these little flies bite in order to consume a blood meal before laying their eggs. The intensely itchy sensation and red welts arise from an allergic reaction to proteins in their saliva. One of Sarah’s eyes nearly swelled shut!
Photo from (http://www.lepidoptera.no/en/arter/?or_id=1968)
**Phenology is the timing of plant and animal life cycle events and how these are influenced by variations in factors such as climate and habitat. The timing of hummingbird arrival in relation to plant flowering times and factors such as climate is of key interest to current research efforts at this station.