Do you love hummingbirds?  If asked, most people would say that these tiny birds are among their favorite bird species.

Anna’s Hummingbird whose head and throat are covered in pollen.

I always pause whatever I’m doing whenever I see a hummingbird nearby.  I am captivated by their small size, brilliant colors and flying antics.

Last weekend, I spent an unforgettable time observing and learning about hummingbirds at the annual Hummingbird Festival, which took place in beautiful Sedona, Arizona.

At the festival, I gave two presentations on small space hummingbird gardening, showing people how they could create a mini-hummingbird garden in a container.

When I wasn’t speaking, I was enjoying the garden tour, visiting local hummingbird gardens along with attending other lectures given by noted hummingbird experts.

There was one particular event of the festival that I experienced, which was an incredible life experiences that I’ll never forget.

Immature Male Black-Chinned Hummingbird

I was able to observe hummingbirds being banded and re-released.  In fact, I was able to hold and release a hummingbird myself!

So, what is hummingbird banding?

Hummingbirds are captured, tagged and re-released.  Hummingbird banding is done to track hummingbird migration, the age and health of hummingbirds.

Mature Black-Chinned Hummingbird
This hummingbird banding site was located in the backyard of a home in Sedona.  
There were multiple hummingbird feeders set out to attract a large number of hummingbirds.

A few of the feeders were located inside of cages that had an opening for hummingbirds to enter.

A hummingbird would enter to feed from the feeder.

One of the hummingbird bankers would carefully capture the hummer and put it into a mesh bag in order to safely transport it to the nearby table where it would be banded.

It’s important to note at this point that banding hummingbirds does no harm to them and it is a very quick process.

The tools needed for banding hummingbirds.

The birds are carefully removed from the bag and the banding process begins.

Young male Anna’s hummingbird.

They are carefully inspected for general health and to identify the species of hummingbird.  On this day – Anna’s, Black-Chinned and Costa’s hummingbirds were banded.

Every hummingbird’s beak and feathers are measured to determine age.

Feathers on the underside are softly blown with a straw in order to see how much (or how little) fat a hummingbird has.  A little fat indicates that a hummingbird is getting ready to migrate.

Special eye wear is required for the banders to see what they are doing with these tiny birds.

For the banding process itself, hummingbirds are placed in a nylon stocking so that one of their legs is more easily manipulated.

The small band is carefully placed on the leg.

As you might expect, it isn’t easy to band hummingbirds because of their tiny size – the bands themselves are so small that they fit around a toothpick.  In fact, hummingbird banding is a highly specialized job and there are only 150 people in the U.S. who have permits allowing them to band hummingbirds.

After the banding has been done, hummingbirds are given a drink of sugar water before being released.

This hummingbird bander came all the way from St. Louis, MO and was so excited to have seen his first Costa’s hummingbird (which aren’t found where he lives) and to have banded it.

For me, the most exciting part was when the banders would select one of the observers to hold and release the newly-banded hummingbirds.

The hummingbirds would sit for a few seconds in the palm of your hand before flying off.

I never imagined that I would ever hold a hummingbird in the palm of my hand.  It was truly an unforgettable experience.
The hummingbird that I released was a young black-chinned hummingbird that had hatched earlier this year.

One of the observers who enjoyed holding and releasing a hummingbird was a gentleman who was 100 years old + 1 month old! 
How wonderful to be able to experience new things at that age 🙂

The garden where the banding was held was beautiful – especially with the backdrop of the red rocks of Sedona.

I must admit that I was equally split between observing the banding and watching the numerous hummingbirds feeding.

Can you tell how many hummingbirds are in the photo, above?


I have got to add more hummingbird feeders to my own garden.


I am so grateful to the folks at the Hummingbird Society who put on a wonderful festival.  I enjoyed speaking and learning about these wonderful “flying jewels”.

The festival is held every summer in Sedona, AZ.  There were over 1,000 attendees this year.  I highly encourage you to consider attending this special event next year.

**If you would like to learn more about small space hummingbird gardening – click here.
Noelle Johnson, aka, 'AZ Plant Lady' is a horticulturist, certified arborist, and landscape consultant who helps people learn how to create, grow, and maintain beautiful desert gardens that thrive in a hot, dry climate. She does this through her consulting services, her online class Desert Gardening 101, and her monthly membership club, Through the Garden Gate. As she likes to tell desert-dwellers, "Gardening in the desert isn't hard, but it is different."

5 replies
  1. dryheatblog
    dryheatblog says:

    I never heard of this…worth a trip…looks green up there, too. I think I stay in El Paso (and formerly ABQ) too much and need a break to some place less dry.

    Sedona seems like it would catch many different hummingbirds – species that go towards Colorado and species that go up the west coast…many people into hummers mostly talk about southern AZ (Huachuca Mtns).

  2. ekolandia
    ekolandia says:

    Thanks for introducing the hummingbird banding tiny business 😉
    Amazing! Anyway, I write from Poland and we (sadly) don't have here any hummingbirds at all.


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