As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.

Monday 4 August 2014

Bands pinpoint oldest of birds

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.

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