This ruby-throated hummingbird is 8 years old.
Sunday August 3, 2014 5:33 AM
I recently received an email from Allen Chartier, a hummingbird expert who lives in Michigan, bearing news of an old bird. He had captured a ruby-throated hummingbird in his home state that proved to be 9 years, 1 month old — the oldest ruby-throat on record.
Chartier had caught the bird in 2006 — it was already an adult — and placed a tiny metal band with unique coding on its leg.
Hummingbirds typically burn up quickly. Most chicks don’t survive their first year, and of those that do, a life span of a few years is probably the norm.
Chartier’s bird was a Methuselah among hummingbirds and has made many journeys to Central America, where ruby-throated hummingbirds spend winter. Chartier estimates that the nickel-weight bird has traveled more than 36,000 miles, and she isn’t done yet.
Two days after capturing the bird, Chartier caught another female that was 8 years, 1 month old.
The science of bird banding — placing metal rings on the banded bird’s leg — provides much of the data regarding bird longevity. The U.S. Geological Survey’s Bird Banding Laboratory oversees bird banders and keeps records. Thanks to its workers, we have a much better idea of how long wild birds live.