22-28 October 2000

Installment #41--Visitor #

(Back to Preceding Week; on to Next Week)

Hilton Pond Hummingbird
Recaptured In Alabama

The yard around the old farmhouse at Hilton Pond Center is criss-crossed with nylon fishing line that extends from inside the building to nearly a dozen traps designed to catch Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. When a hummingbird enters the trap, a quick tug on the string closes the door and safely snares the hummer. These pullstring devices account for about 80% of hummingbirds captured at Hilton Pond Center; the remainder are caught in mist nets deployed for general banding.

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center

Operating pullstring traps (below right) is extremely time-intensive. Especially in the prime hummer months of August and September, we spend many hours standing at the farmhouse windows--waiting for a hummingbird to enter one of the traps. On a good day, we may get a half-dozen or more new hummers, but even in August when the local population is at its highest, we sometimes catch no birds despite manning the traps for hours on end. That's why it's so fulfilling when something finally happens to make all the time and effort worthwhile.

Something VERY special occurred this week. Bob Sargent, a fellow hummingbird bander, sent word that a Ruby-throated Hummingbird from Hilton Pond Center had been recaptured in Alabama by two other banders. To quote from Bob's e-mail message: "On October 20, 2000, Master Banders Fred Bassett and Fred Moore made a special trip to Robertsdale, Alabama, in Baldwin County to check out a 'weird hummingbird with with a green sash.' You guessed it! It was banded with band number T86632."

T86632 is a hatch-year female banded on the afternoon of 3 October 2000 at Hilton Pond Center. As are all Ruby-throated Hummingbirds captured at Hilton Pond Center, she was marked with green dye on her upper breast (see photo at top); since hummingbird bands are tiny and difficult to see, the dye shows that a bird is already banded and eliminates the need to pull the string and recapture it--unless, as in this case, the hummer is seen elsewhere than at Hilton Pond Center.

Each fall, most Ruby-throated Hummingbirds go through hyperphagia, in which they greatly increase their feeding rate and nearly double their weight with high-energy fat needed in migration. T86632 only weighed 3.37 grams at banding--within normal range for a summer female--so she apparently had not put on any significant fat when first captured. She was the fifth from last hummer banded this year; we finished up the 2000 season at Hilton Pond Center with the 195th bird on 6 October.

T86632 provides one more data point to support the conjecture that at least some eastern Ruby-throated Hummingbirds go overland in fall migration rather than to south Florida. Robertsdale--485 straight-line air miles (781 km) from Hilton Pond Center--is on the coast just east of Mobile, so it's possible this bird could still head southeast toward the Florida Keys. It seems more feasible, however, that T86632 will follow the Gulf Coast, perhaps toward Texas and the Rockport area--a well-known staging ground for migrant hummers preparing to cross the Gulf of Mexico. There's also the possibility she will continue along the coast of Mexico before ending up on her wintering grounds there or in Central America as far south as Panama.

All maps, text & photos © Hilton Pond Center

T86632 joins two other wandering Ruby-throated Hummingbirds of note from Hilton Pond Center (above). One was a hatch-year male banded on 26 September 1991 and recaptured by Bob Sargent near Atlanta ten days later; this is believed to be the first ruby-throat recaptured and released more than 10 miles from its original banding site. The other was a color-marked bird seen (not recaptured or specifically identified, but known to be a female) on 21 September 1997 by Judy Fruge' in Cameron, Louisiana, along the coast. Again, all these birds lend credence to the hypothesis that some ruby-throats do not go to South Florida before cross in the Gulf. (NOTE: There was also a probable but unconfirmed sighting of a green color-marked hummer east of Charlotte, North Carolina, in September 1999.)

Of the 50,000 Ruby-throated Hummingbirds ever banded, only about 50 have been encountered again away from their banding areas, so we feel fortunate that two of them have come from Hilton Pond Center. Now if we could just get one of "our" hummingbirds recaptured or recovered on the wintering grounds in Mexico or Central America . . . .

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center

NOTE: Be sure to scroll down for an account of all birds banded or recaptured during the week, as well as some other interesting nature notes.

"This Week at Hilton Pond" is written and photographed by Bill Hilton Jr., executive director of Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History.

You may wish to consult our Index of all nature topics covered since February 2000. You can also use the on-line Search Engine at the bottom of this page.

For a free, non-fattening, on-line subscription to "This Week at Hilton Pond," just send us an E-mail with Subscribe in the subject line. Please be sure to configure your spam filter to accept E-mails from

If you enjoy This Week at Hilton Pond,
please help

Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History.
It's painless, and YOU can make a difference!

Just CLICK on one of the logos below.

Make direct donations on-line through
Network for Good:
Donate a portion of your purchase price from 500 top on-line stores via iGive:
Use your PayPal account to make direct donations:

The following species were banded this week (some are pictured at right or on other weekly pages):

Ruby-crowned Kinglet--4
Goldren-crowned Kinglet--1
Eastern Phoebe--1
Yellow-rumped Warbler--1
Northern Cardinal--1
Eastern (Rufous-sided) Towhee--2
Hermit Thrush--5
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker--1
White-throated Sparrow--4
Northern Mockingbird--1
Mourning Dove--1

11 species
22 individuals

78 species
1,991 individuals
GRAND TOTAL (since June 1982)
122 species
38,141 individuals


White-throated Sparrows
Northern Cardinal
Carolina Chickadee
Eastern Bluebird
Three banded as sibling chicks in an on-site nestbox on 07/16/00

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
(immature female)
(Males have red throat)

Hermit Thrush
(Incomplete eye-ring and a
bright rusty tail )

Ruby-crowned Kinglet (female)
(Red in male's crown is
not always visible)

All photos © Hilton Pond Center

Back to Preceding Week; on to Next Week

Up to Top of Page

Back to This Week at
Hilton Pond Center

Current Weather Conditions at Hilton Pond Center

You can also
post questions for
The Piedmont Naturalist

Search Engine for
Hilton Pond Center

Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History is a non-profit research & education organization in York, South Carolina USA; phone (803) 684-5852. Directed by Bill Hilton Jr., aka The Piedmont Naturalist, it is the parent organization for Operation RubyThroat. Contents of this Web site--including articles and photos--may NOT be duplicated, modified, or used in any way except with the express written permission of Hilton Pond Center. All rights reserved worldwide. To obtain permission for use or for further assistance on accessing this Web site, contact the Webmaster.