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All Hummingbirds Great & Small - Evotis: April 2016


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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All Hummingbirds Great & Small - Evotis: April 2016


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All Hummingbirds Great And Small

By Nistara Randhawa

Hummingbirds are a study in contrasts -- tiny beings with fiercely magnificent spirits. So delicate, yet so strong. Incredible athleticism belying their small frames and a fierce territoriality at odds with the tiny space occupied by their little bodies. I have always adored hummingbirds, but I write about them today with a newfound sense of awe after having spent several early mornings last summer on the outskirts of Davis, California, shadowing Dr. Lisa Tell, who co-runs the Hummingbird Health and Conservation Program at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.

I am a graduate student with the UC Davis One Health Institute and I exercise my creative side via forays into photography and videography. When Justin, who is the editor of Evotis, asked if I wanted to shoot and edit a video about the hummingbird program, I enthusiastically accepted. The video below is the result of our sunrise excursions with Dr. Tell’s team. See for yourself what makes hummingbirds so special, and how the program is contributing to what we know about their health and genetics. Dr. Tell aptly summed up hummingbirds during one of our many conversations, describing them as, “just one incredible little package balled up into 3 to 5 grams.”


More quotes from our conversations with Dr. Lisa Tell: 

Many people really love hummingbirds – they love watching them, being able to feed them, and monitoring what they’re doing. They are a great urban wildlife species because people can readily see them.

Photo by Nistara Randhawa


Photo by Nistara Randhawa

We are monitoring hummingbirds because it’s really important to know what’s currently going on with a population so that if they start having problems, you know what normal looks like and can use that as a baseline to study what’s progressively happening in the population, especially if it’s declining.

Some of our studies involve looking at hummingbirds’ exposure to heavy metals and pesticides in their environment, blood parasites to know whether or not they can be problematic, and identification and prevalence of feather mites. We take samples that aren’t harmful to the birds for our studies.
Photo by Nistara Randhawa

Photo by Nistara Randhawa


Photo by Nistara Randhawa

Photo by Nistara Randhawa

Whenever we talk about banding hummingbirds or working with them, people are concerned about their welfare and whether or not it’s hard on the birds. The process is not invasive to the birds. We’re very gentle with them and we haven’t had any problems of birds getting hurt.

Photo by Nistara Randhawa

Photo by Nistara Randhawa

While banding the birds and taking measurements, the hummingbirds will actually feed while in our hands. We just put them up to the hummingbird feeder and they’ll feed readily. For a lot of bird species, if they’re really stressed and the process is bothersome, they won’t voluntarily feed like that. There are also hummingbirds that we banded who come back multiple times within that same day.

People are enamored with hummingbirds because of their color and their size. I think when people really start studying hummingbirds and watching them, they realize just how tough and territorial they are. They are also very feisty even though they’re so small; they have attitudes and they’ll tell you what they think!
Photo by Nistara Randhawa

Photo by Nistara Randhawa


Photo by Nistara Randhawa

Photo by Nistara Randhawa

I think hummingbirds are a marvel of nature. They’re just one incredible little package balled up into 3 to 5 grams. Hummingbirds are amazing anatomically. Their athleticism and intelligence for their size is incredible. A lot of the species that we’re working with migrate 2000-3,000 miles within a given year. That’s an incredible amount of energy output and athleticism for such a little bird!

The Hummingbird Health and Conservation Program is a joint effort between Dr. Lisa Tell at University of California, Davis and Dr. Holly Ernest at University of Wyoming. Check out the program’s website for more detailed information about the program’s activities and accomplishments.

Thanks to Dr. Tell for making this project possible and for answering our questions along the way. Thanks to Justin Cox for assisting with travel logistics, audio recording, and story editing.