Trip Reports

Holding Hummingbirds in Idaho

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The most amazing thing I did last summer was something I didn’t even know was possible. I got to hold a hummingbird in my hand. And if you visit Idaho in the summer, it’s something you can experience as well!

Intermountain Bird Observatory has a hummingbird monitoring and banding site near Idaho City, one of only 24 in the world, and the only one in the Calliope hummingbird breeding range. The site attracts several species of hummingbirds, including one little guy who gets caught every year since they started in 2012!

It was a great opportunity to learn more about the birds and get a close up view. Volunteers start showing up at 6, observers can catch the first shuttle at 6:45.

Note: due to limited space and it’s popularity, (free) tickets are required to attend.

How do you even catch a hummingbird? The feeders are shrouded in little mesh tents and when a hummingbird enters to feed, the net is dropped and they’re carefully collected.

Researchers then tag, measure, and weigh the beautiful little birds and feed them to restore their strength after the ordeal.

The last step is where audience participation happens! The ready-to-be-released hummingbird is gently set on a flat palm and a quick puff of breath used to encourage the bird into flight.

I was pretty timid about blowing too hard — the feeling of that tiny creature in my palm was unlike anything I’d experienced before. And it turns out Idaho is just a magical place in general to visit. Great wine, whitewater rafting, ghost towns, basque food and more!

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