Bob Loy gives a presentation to local Rotarians on The Hummingbirds of Bandelier. Photo by Linda Hull
BY LINDA HULL
Rotary Club of Los Alamos
Sporting a tee shirt with an image of a swordbill hummingbird, native to the Andes Mountains of South America, Bob Loy, only one of two certified hummingbird banders in New Mexico, presented The Hummingbirds of Bandelier to members of the Rotary Club of Los Alamos in late May, just as the seasonal migration of hummingbirds began in our part of the world.
With an informative PowerPoint and a witty sense of humor, Loy explained that hummingbirds are the “smallest of all warm-blooded creatures.” They reside only in the Western Hemisphere with 338 species, coming in second only to flycatchers as most populous. The most hummingbird species, 163, are found in Ecuador. Nineteen species live in the United States; of those, four can be found in Bandelier. These are the black-chinned and broad-tailed hummingbirds, who breed here, and the rufous and calliope who breed elsewhere but migrate through northern New Mexico. One of the most popular species, the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird, only lives east of the Mississippi River.
Loy has been involved in banding Bandelier’s hummingbirds for many years. This activity “tracks the dispersal and migration” of these tiniest of birds, “helps determine their lifespan,” “reveals their behavior and social structure,” and “estimates the birds’ survival rates and reproductive rates.”
One-third of the hummingbird population is considered threatened, a designation for “animals and plants that are expected to become endangered within the foreseeable future throughout all or a sizeable portion of their range.”
Hummingbirds of all species and in all habitats are essential pollinators. For that reason alone they should be protected and cherished as their iridescent feathers, humming wingbeats, and distinctive trill bring a whisper of magic like no other bird to nature’s wonders.
–Black-chinned Hummingbirds have the broadest range of habitats. They are unsocial, only coming together during mating season.
–Broad-tailed Hummingbirds prefer red flowers. The males’ wingbeats create a distinct sound.
–Rufous Hummingbirds are extremely territorial. They have the longest migration route of any hummingbird, traveling from Alaska to Central America.
–Calliope Hummingbirds are the smallest hummingbirds in the continental United States, weighing less that a penny. Like the Rufous, they are very territorial.
–Hummingbirds can starve to death in a few hours, so must eat every 10 minutes throughout the day. They have no interest in artificially sweetened nectar.
–They lay tiny eggs, about 0.5 inches long, in clutches of two.
–They generally live up to six years unless caught in the grasp of a praying mantis, the insect species that finds them quite delectable.
–Their exceptional memories bring them back to frequented feeding grounds year after year.
–Their wings, which beat 55 times per second when feeding and 200 times when courting, move in a ‘figure 8’ pattern when hovering.
–Their tongues are shaped like the letter W.
Guest speaker Bob Loy moved with his family to Los Alamos in 2012 after retiring as a Colonel from a distinguished career in the U.S. Army. He began his next career as a part-time consultant to the Department of Defense. That job, however, left him with a great deal of spare time between assignments, and he jokes that his wife told him he had to find a hobby that got him out of the house.
Around that same time, Loy was deeply affected by a report that stated the current generation of children will not live as long as previous generations. The main reason cited is that kids do not have a connection with nature. So, he asked himself how he could help, and that led him to his hobby (a great relief to his wife!) and passion: birding.
Loy began volunteering at the Pajarito Environmental Education Center (PEEC), where he was introduced to Park Flight. The program, which is co-sponsored by PEEC and Bandelier National Monument, gives upper elementary students the opportunity to spend a day at a songbird banding site. Here the students learn how to band birds but more importantly why. From that experience, Loy was introduced to the bird banding programs at Bandelier, for which he now volunteers approximately 500 hours per year.
Since then, Bob has attended the basic and advanced banders certification training in Wolf Ridge, Minnesota, hosted by the Institute for Bird Populations. He also completed the hummingbird banders certification training in Portal, Arizona, run by the Hummingbird Conservation Networks.
Loy has been an integral part of the hummingbird banding program in Los Alamos for six years. This year, the lead bander moved out of state and left the program in Loy’s capable hands.
To learn more about hummingbird populations and conservation, please go to Institute for Bird Populations at https://www.birdpop.org/ and Hummingbird Conservation Networks at https://www.savehummingbirds.org/
The Rotary Club of Los Alamos, through its Club Foundation, is a 501(c)3 non-profit and one of over 34,000 clubs worldwide. Rotary, which now has 1.5 million members, was founded in 1905; the local Club was chartered in 1966. Rotary areas of focus include promoting peace; fighting disease, particularly polio; providing clean water, sanitation, and hygiene; supporting education; saving and enhancing the lives of mothers and children; growing economies; and protecting the environment.
The Rotary Club of Los Alamos meets in person Tuesdays, 12:00-1:00, in the Community Room, Cottonwood on the Greens, at the golf course. A Zoom option is available by contacting Linda Hull, Rotary Club vice-president, 505-662-7950. Hull is also happy to provide information about the Club and its humanitarian service.