Public Events in Arrow Rock

Back to Back Public Banding Events in Arrow Rock

Missouri River Bird Observatory staff were invited to Arrow Rock State Historic Site two weekends in a row to do banding demonstrations for visitors.

During the first event on September 7, three white-breasted nuthatches provided an opportunity to study age and plumage.

Two of the nuthatches were adult males and the third was a juvenile male that had hatched and fledged this year. All three were caught in the same net at the same time and so it was especially interesting to be able to compare the difference in plumage between the juvenile and adults.

Adult male White-breasted nuthatch at top, young below.

The photo above shows one of the adult male’s wing at the top of the photo and the juvenile bird’s wing at the bottom. The adult male’s flight feathers are uniformly dark and have a slaty blue edging, while most of the juvenile bird’s flight feathers are brownish and have a brownish gray edging to them or no edging. From the photo you can also see that the adult bird’s flight feathers match the color of the feathers on its back. The juvenile’s brownish feathers contrast with the slaty blue back feathers as well as the tertials, the wider, medium-length inner flight feathers closest to the bird’s body.

This juvenile nuthatch was also molting in new tail feathers and in the photo you can notice that the tail feathers are different lengths as they molt in.

Among the other birds banded were several chickadees, titmice, a red-bellied woodpecker and a ruby-throated hummingbird.

The following Saturday brought about 40 visitors from Missouri and as far as Oklahoma to Arrow Rock to learn about the diversity of hummingbirds and observe hummingbird banding. The day was cool and sunny and the hummingbirds were active at the feeders around the visitor’s center.

Hummingbird bander Lanny Chambers has been banding for about 13 years and he and his wife Linda do several banding presentations each spring and summer at Montauk and Onondaga State Parks. I had visited them at Montauk State Park during their May presentation and then in August I was able to join Lanny in banding the hummingbirds since I had completed a training during the summer and was granted a permit. It was exciting to have Lanny and Linda come to Arrow Rock and share their knowledge of hummingbirds. 

We banded about 10 Ruby-throated Hummingbirds during the morning including the young male pictured to the right. This male was hatched during the summer and it is normal for young males to have one or more red feathers on the throat during the fall that also should be visible in the field when the bird is perched. By next spring, this bird will have replaced his throat feathers with a full gorget of red feathers.

I also recaptured the hummingbird that I had banded the previous Saturday. This particular female had gained some weight during the week and would need to gain more before finishing the long journey south. The hummingbird banding is part of a project to study hummingbirds during migration, comparing their stopovers at different sites as they move south, so it was interesting to know that this female had remained in the area for at least a week.

by Veronica Mecko

For more photos of the event see the MRBO facebook page. For more information on hummingbirds go to

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