A studio for bird study

Tag: banding

Banding Calliope Hummingbirds in Idaho

by Bryce W. Robinson


Palm release of a male Calliope Hummingbird – Selasphorus calliope

Last week I was fortunate to join my friends Jessica Pollock and Heidi Ware of the Intermountain Bird Observatory for some hummingbird banding near Idaho City, Idaho. The banding location is located in the mountains of central Idaho, consisting of healthy Ponderosa Pine forests complete with associated bird life.


Last week was a bit early in the season, but we did have some luck catching Calliope Hummingbirds. We caught 7 birds, all males. Catching only males also indicates the early season, as in most species males are tasked with setting up territories before the arrival of females and are thus the first to arrive. The banding seemed to tell this story. Unfortunately the Rufous Hummingbirds weren’t around yet, but capturing a number of North America’s smallest bird was more than enough to satisfy my desire to see hummingbirds in hand.



Weighing a male Calliope Hummingbird.

The whole day was excellent, but the perhaps the most exciting part of the day came with a recapture of a bird that has been captured every year for the past five years. It’s remarkable to hold proof of the resilience and livelihood of such a small and well travelled animal.

To find out more about IBO’s hummingbird work, please visit their website and get involved.


Singing House Wren on the Boise River

by Bryce W. Robinson


I recorded a singing House Wren (Troglodytes aedon) today while banding birds along the Boise River with the Intermountain Bird Observatory (note the bird is banded!).

Although spring migration hasn’t hit in its entirety at this site, the House Wrens seem to have arrived in full. There are at least three different individual males singing in the area, and I’ve noticed an additional four individuals in the area as well. The House Wren population at this site seems to be healthy.

Unfortunately the video I recorded does not capture the song of the House Wren. I wasn’t too far from the wren, but I believe the inability of the phone to capture the song is related to the masking of other noises in the environment (and the iPhone’s lack of a directional mic). First and foremost it was a windy day, which I believe is the main contributor to the masking. On top of the wind was the noise of the busy highway, the noise of the Boise River, and nearby construction (all large bandwidth, but mostly low frequency). With both natural and anthropogenic noise, I wonder how House Wren territory distributions differ between an area like this and a relatively noiseless area such as a remote forest location away from a river.


House Wren (Troglodytes aedon) banded at the Intermountain Bird Observatory’s Boise River site on the east end of Boise, Idaho.

Despite the heightened noise, the wrens in this area seem to be thick and continuing with life as they would. A study may enlighten us on the human noise impacts coupled with natural noise (rivers, etc.) on bird territory distributions like in this case, but if I were to hedge a bet I’d say the House Wren is one species that seems to weather the added impacts of humanity enough to maintain a regular and healthy population within human disturbance areas.

The Gray Ghost

by Bryce W. Robinson

Northern Harrier- Circus cyaneus. 11×18″ Prismacolor on Bristol.

Deneb Sandack has been involved with the Goshutes Raptor Migration sight in some way or another since its inception in the early 80’s. For many years she has acted as the lead bander at the sight, going above and beyond to ensure that the sight runs smoothly and achieves its goals each season.

Her passion for trapping birds is unmatched. I admire her greatly for this passion. Over the years she has trapped and processed thousands upon thousands of birds. Each year she returns to the mountain with hopes of trapping what is her personal white whale, a bird that has evaded her tremendous luring and trapping skills for years. This bird is the Gray Ghost, the adult male Northern Harrier.

The Gray Ghost, a name known among raptor enthusiasts and birders alike. Termed such because of its ghostly gray plumage, and intense yellow eyes. It hunts just above the ground, floating along in search of prey, reminiscent of a specter in search of a soul. A truly remarkable and mystifying creature, very deserving of its super natural epithet.

Because the male Harrier is the single regular migrant that has avoided capture by Deneb all of these years, I thought it prudent to honor her and her goal by illustrating the bird. This bird is for her, as my tribute to her hard work and dedication, and hope that next season at the Goshutes Raptor Migration Sight she finally pulls the Gray Ghost from the sky.