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Hummingbirds: songs, nesting & territoriality in captivity

The Hummingbird Exhibit is temporarily closed for renovation. We hope to re-open the exhibit in September 2002.

Since the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum's hummingbird aviary opened in 1988, the hummingbirds on exhibit have built over 139 nests, laid 247 eggs, and successfully fledged over 106 birds. No other zoological institution can boast of such success.

Despite this success and the popularity of hummingbirds, we still know very little about their behavior and breeding - especially in captivity.

In order to ensure the continued success of this exhibit and to assist other institutions in caring for their hummingbirds, ASDM mammalogist and ornithologist Karen Krebbs currently gathers information on several aspects of hummingbirds behavior, focusing on songs, nesting and territoriality in captivity.

THE PROJECTS: Information on the general behavior of hummingbirds is routinely gathered in the hummingbird aviary, with emphasis placed on territoriality, breeding and how much time birds allocate to different activities. Hummingbirds are highly territorial, and their need for nesting space and access to resources are an important consideration in the exhibit. Additionally, while five species and many individual hummingbirds have bred and nested in the exhibit, three species have yet to do so. We also don't know what encourages some birds to nest after not doing so for years.

The songs and wing noises of ten species are currently being recorded and studied: Anna's (Calypte anna), Broad-billed (Cynanthus latirostris), Costa's (Calypte costae), Black-chinned (Archilochus alexandri), Broad-tailed (Selasphorus platycerus), Lucifer (Calothrax lucifer), Calliope (Stellula calliope), Rufous (Selasphorus rufus), Magnificent (Eugenes fulgens), and Blue-throated (Lampornis clemenciae).

Each bird is recorded throughout the year, and tapes are being analyzed on a Sona-Graph at the University of Arizona. Additionally, the songs of several species of juvenile hummingbirds are being recorded throughout development until maturity.

WHO: Karen Krebbs, Collections Manager, Department of Mammalogy and Ornithology, Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.

WHEN: Ongoing since 1988.

WHERE: On-grounds at the ASDM hummingbirds exhibit and the mixed bird aviary.


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