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2010 Peoria Hummingbird Festival

Saturday, August 21     

The Peoria Audubon Society jointly hosted the 2010 Peoria Hummingbird Festival with the Illinois Audubon Society and the Peoria Park District.  Before the 9:00 AM start time at Forest Park Nature Center, people were already streaming in -- anxious to see these remarkable little creatures.  For a small donation ($5.00+ suggested) to the Illinois Audubon land acquisition fund, participants could "adopt" a hummingbird. 

Vernon Kleen, of the Illinois Audubon Society, one of only two people in the state of Illinois that are licensed to band hummingbirds was present.  After capture, ruby-throated hummingbirds were measured, banded, then released.  After the banding, Verne would carefully place the hummingbird to the adoptee's hand so that they could release the bird back to the wild (see photos below.)

Dennis Endicott, webmaster for Peoria Audubon, took a few photos to remember the event. 

Banded Ruby-throated Hummingbird - Adopted by Marilyn Boyle

The image above is a closeup of a female ruby-throated hummingbird that was adopted by Marilyn Boyle.  The birds enter a state of torpor during the banding process to save energy.  The bird would fly away in a few moments.  See the photos below. 

Vern Kleen Telling the Crowd About Hummingbirds

Vern provided a lot of information on hummingbirds to the crowd.  With the adoption process, if "your" adopted hummingbird is captured again, Vern will provide a letter stating when and where "your" hummingbird was found.  With this being Vern's 12 Hummingbird Festival this year, Vern said that so far this year, he has sent out 177 letters. 

Gathering around Vern Kleen to look at Banded Hummingbird

Verne indicated that by banding hummingbirds, we are able to gather valuable information about them.  For instance, if a hummingbird lives past the first year, they may live for 3-5 years.  It is possible that some may even live further.  Vern said that with his previously banded hummingbirds, there was one unique individual that he captured for 4 years straight.  This belies how they may return to the same location year after year.

One of the more amazing facts is that ruby-throated hummingbirds migrate across the Gulf of Mexico to winter in Mexico and parts of Central America.  Since there are no "filling-stations" over the ocean, the hummingbirds pack on the calories in the short time before their migration.  During this time, they increase in weight from 3 grams to a "whopping" 5 grams.  The increase in body fat helps fuel them toward their winter destination. 

The crowd watches intently as Verne describes how to use a hummingbird feeder

Vern said that for feeding hummingbirds, use 1 part sugar (regular granular cane sugar) to 4 parts of water.  That is 1 cup sugar dissolved in 4 cups of water.  Bring the mixture to a quick boil, cool and use.  Do not use the commercial "hummingbird food," as these contain a red dye that accumulates within the hummingbird. 

Arlene Whitaker releases her adopted hummingbird

Arlene Whitaker was the first person to release a hummingbird in the morning.  In the above image, Vern had just placed the hummingbird into her hand.   

Feeling the Heartbeat of a Hummingbird

A hummingbird's heart beats at 1200 beats per minute.  After banding, and before release, Vern would let people feel what the heartbeat feels like.  This does not harm the hummingbird as they are still in a state of torpor.  After a couple of minutes, Vern very carefully places the hummingbird into the adoptee's hand and moments later, the hummingbird springs to life.  Note that Verne is the only one holding the hummingbird and that the utmost care is taken to do this safely. 

Marilyn Boyle is ready to release her adopted hummingbird

Marilyn Boyle was very excited to hold these delicate creatures before they flew away. 

Awe Inspiring Release of Hummingbird - Hummingbird is visible above red arrow

With a burst of speed, Marilyn Boyle's hummingbird came to life and flew away.  Look carefully at the above the red arrow in the image above for the camera froze the hummingbird in flight as it sped away.  Capturing this image was a stroke of luck on the photographer's part. 

Diane Jorgensen signs as a new Illinois Audubon member and gets a free Hummingbird Feeder

Jo Skogland of the Illinois Audubon Society made a special offer at the festival.  If a person were to sign up for a 1-year membership for $25, they could have a free hummingbird feeder.  With an offer this enticing, Diane Jorgensen decided to sign up.

Even wild turkeys came over to look (and raid the scattered bird seed)

During a somewhat quieter moment, a flock of wild turkeys walked over with the intent of heading toward the spot on the ground under the bird feeders.  The turkeys were more than happy to help themselves to seeds that had fallen toward the ground.  Although the turkeys at Forest Park are somewhat accustomed to the presence of people, they are still quite skittish and did not stay long. 

Hanna poses while viewing hummingbird nest

Hanna was fascinated by the small size of the hummingbird nest on display.  

Constance Waller volunteered to transport captured hummingbirds

Constance Waller volunteered to help transport the captured hummingbirds in the pink cloth bags. 

Hummingbird Feeder Inside Remote-controlled Trap

How to trap a hummingbird?  First, in the days before the festival, the hummingbirds become accustomed to feeding from several, perhaps 10 or so hummingbird feeders scattered around the festival site.  This is to get logs of birds accustomed to coming to the site. 

Then, the evening before the event, all of the feeders are taken down, except for 2 that are placed into the above wire cages. The doors are left in the open position.  

Patience is key at the next step.  After the start of the event, a volunteer patiently watches, very intently, for hummingbirds to come to the caged feeders. 

Patience is needed to be sure and wait until the hummer lands on the feeder before triggering the remote door close.  If the hummingbird is still hovering in the cage, the little birds are so fast that when the remote is triggered, the birds can zip out of the cage before the door closes. 

Vern indicated that he made the remote controls for the trap doors himself.  The mechanism was fabricated from parts of an old windshield washer mechanism. 

David Platt volunteered to operate remote trap door and transport hummingbirds

David Platt volunteered to operate the remote for the festival.  Note the pink hummingbird transport bag that David is holding in his left hand.

More photos of the hummingbird festival are on page 2. 

Click for Page 2 of Hummingbird Festival


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