HUMMINGBIRDS CLOSE UP ON APT
Clay, Ala., April
12---The visitors come calling like clockwork, beginning about
this time of year. By the time fall comes around, Bob and Martha
Sargent will be on intimate terms with nearly 800 of them. The
visitors are Ruby-throated hummingbirds who stop by the Sargent's
backyard on their migrations between Central America and North
Bird in the Hand," a documentary on Alabama Public Television
(APT), shows how the Sargents -- and others they have meticulously
trained -- trap and band hummingbirds to learn about the
fascinating, colorful creatures.
"A Bird in the
Hand" will air at 8 p.m., Thursday, April 26, on APT as part of
THE ALABAMA EXPERIENCE television series. The program will be
repeated at 7 p.m., Saturday, April 28, on APT.
"It's hard to
imagine this tiny bird we've got in our hand could have hatched in
Canada, here, or anywhere in between," says Bob Sargent.
The birds are small but
tough. An adult may weigh only one-tenth of an ounce--less than a
penny--but makes two non-stop flights across the Gulf of Mexico to
and from wintering in Central America.
The Sargents trap the
birds by placing sugar-water feeders in wire cages. When the hummers
enter, a trap door falls. Banding the birds requires many hours of
training and a federal permit, but the Sargents have trained dozens
of others banders so the migratory patterns of the
birds can be recorded.
natural history this bird would develop through its normal life can
now be monitored if it is encountered again," says Sargent. The
tiny metal band he crimps on the bird's leg is clearly legible but
incredibly light. It takes 5,500 of them to weigh one ounce.
It's quite possible
these birds will be encountered again. Hummingbirds often return to
the same feeding stations year after year as if on schedule. Last
summer the Sargents banded 800 hummingbirds in their backyard.
"A Bird in The
Hand" also shows the work of the Hummer/Bird Study Group, a
non-profit organization the Sargents started in 1994. Its 1,700
members in 40 states are interested in all passerines -- migratory
songbirds -- and some of them work as volunteers at Ft. Morgan,
April and October when
the Sargents conduct a bird census. Long nets approximately six feet
high are stretched among the scrappy pines and sand dunes just off
"This is a really
great tool to study birds because you can interrupt their lives only
briefly to study them as we do here and share them with you
guys," Sargent tells one of the many groups of school children
who come to see the banded and measured birds.
"A Bird in the
Hand" offers remarkable close-ups of these beautiful
hummingbirds and information about their aggressive behavior, diet,
and migratory patterns that might surprise even those who study
hummers at backyard feeders. The program also includes information
about flowers that can be planted that will attract the birds.
"A Bird in the
Hand" is a production of the University of Alabama Center for
PublicTelevision and Radio.
SOURCE: Brent Davis,
Center for Public Television, University of Alabama (205) 348-6210,
and Lloyd Weatherly, Extension County Agent, Tuscaloosa County (205)