Applying the band
I am a licensed hummingbird bander. Placing a tiny numbered strip of aluminum on the bird's leg is the only way to positively identify an individual hummingbird, so if it is recaptured later, either at the same location or by another bander elsewhere, science may learn something about its lifespan, health, and migratory movements. In addition to banding a bird, while it's in my hand I note its condition and state of molt, take a number of measurements, and record its weight. The Ruby-throated Hummingbirds that breed in my area generally weigh between 2.6 and 3.5 grams in the summer (females are larger), and up to 6 grams just before migrating in the fall, as they build fat reserves for the long journey to winter quarters in Central America. To immobilize the bird for weighing, I tuck it into the toe of an old nylon stocking. You can learn more about hummingbirds and their migrations at my website, Hummingbirds.net.
Until this year I'd been using a Pesola mechanical spring scale to weigh birds. The Pesola has been the standard bander's instrument for decades, but it really doesn't work very well: it binds, making repeatable readings almost impossible; the Pesola's tare capability involves screwing the spring anchor in and out, then securing it with a locknut; worst, its capacity is only 5 grams, insufficient for my needs, and reading it is difficult.
Making stuffed hummingbird
Many banders have switched to digital scales in recent years. The most popular has been the Ohaus Scout, probably because for a long time it was the only reasonably-priced digital scale available. But it now costs too much, and it's far too bulky to fit in the tackle box that I use to carry my equipment to remote banding locations. I looked for alternatives.
An hour's online research led me to the MyWeigh pocket scale from Precision Weighing Balances. The size is handy, the construction seems reasonably durable, the range and resolution are adequate, the weighing pan projects above the case so readings aren't skewed by a bird hanging over the edge, its AAA batteries are cheap and plentiful, and the balances.com price is right.
In use, the Proscale 250 turns what used to be a frustrating and error-prone task into 5 seconds of uneventful routine. I couldn't ask for more.
- Lanny Chambers
Photos © 2001 John McGill
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The MyWeigh Proscale 250 has been discontinued and we recommend for an alternative the My Weigh Palm Scale 8.0
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