Female Black-chinned Hummingbird
Female Black-chinned Hummingbird

Ann Burkhart/NPS

If you visit us early in the morning during the spring and summer months, you may spot a small group of biologists and volunteers in our picnic area hunched over some tools, charts, and bottles of nectar. If they don’t look up to greet you, don’t take it personally. They are engrossed in a very delicate task: placing small anklets on the delicate legs of hummingbirds.

Researchers at Montezuma Castle National Monument participate in an ongoing study led by the Hummingbird Monitoring Network. Hummingbird banding stations like ours are found all over the country, including places like Mesa Verde National Park and Bandelier National Monument.

Different species of hummingbirds prefer to feed and nest in particular types of climates. In Arizona, the environment is dictated by elevation. Here in the high Sonoran Desert, wildlife biologists have captured Rufous, Black-chinned, and Anna’s Hummingbirds.

Our goal is to learn more about this swift and brave little bird. By banding them, we can learn about their migration patterns, life history, and age expectancy. Each band has a serial number on it, so researchers can track individual birds as they move through their migration corridors.

Adult Male Rufous Hummingbird
Adult Male Rufous Hummingbird


Through mark-recapture studies like this one, researchers have made some pretty surprising discoveries! For example, the Rufous Hummingbird makes a 2,700 mile journey from Alaska to Mexico every winter and it only takes a few weeks. Relative to its size, that’s the longest and fastest migration of any bird!

Hummingbirds are swift, bold defenders of their habitats, but migration and nesting have become increasingly difficult for them. Habitat destruction due to urban development can interrupt their migration corridors, making it difficult for them to find enough food for their journey. But don’t worry, there are ways you can help. Hummingbird gardens are a great way to attract birds to your yard and provide an important refueling station for birds on the move! To find out about more ways to get involved in the research and projection of hummingbirds, check out the Hummingbird Monitoring Network website.

Last updated: June 22, 2017

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