The Garden Club witnesses hummingbird banding

Staff Writer
Gonzales Weekly Citizen
GGC members watch in silent fascination as Dr. Erik Johnson methodically measures the hummingbird’s beak, torso, wings, and tail.

The November 28 Gonzales Garden Club meeting took place at the St. Amant home of Member Mary Jo Pohlig for an educational program on "Winter Hummingbird Banding." The guest speaker was Dr. Erik Johnson, a licensed bird bander and one of approximately 150 people in the U.S. who holds a permit to band hummingbirds. He is currently the Audubon Louisiana Director of Bird Conservation and also serves as an officer and board member of many other ornithological and conservation organizations.

On the morning of the club meeting, Dr. Johnson caught a rufous hummingbird in a feeder trap in Pohlig’s backyard. He measured and weighed the tiny bird, recorded the data into his Bird Banding Laboratory log book of 600+ bird band entries, and marked its head with a paint dab. Johnson then secured a minuscule, numerically-coded metal band around the tiny creature's leg before releasing it back into the natural environment. The club was mesmerized by Dr. Johnson’s specialized demonstration of the hummingbird banding.

During the business meeting, members listed plants in their home gardens that attract hummingbirds: saliva, hibiscus, canna, ginger, cigar plant, fire spike, coral honeysuckle, butterfly plant, fire bush, bottlebrush, shrimp plant, red passion flower, cardinal flower, lantana, and zinnias.

Member Mary Jo Pohlig presented each member with a coral honeysuckle plant that she had propagated for the occasion. She promoted its cultivation as a native plant, pointing out that this tough, showy evergreen vine attracts both hummingbirds and butterflies.

Member Barbara McCormick gave a garden tip about homemade hummingbird nectar. Her recipe directions were to dissolve one part white table sugar in four parts boiling water, cool and keep refrigerated until needed to fill a feeder. She cautioned that red dye should never be added as it may be harmful to the birds’ health.

Red parts on hummingbird feeders serve the purpose of attracting hummingbirds. McCormick also advised gardeners to ensure that feeders are placed high enough that cats cannot attack the birds.

Contributed by the Gonzales Garden Club