It's the start of migration season, and in the St. George area, Ned Batchelder is visiting about 15 different volunteers' yards, trapping and putting tiny leg bands on the birds. He says projects such as these help track hummingbird size and migration patterns.
"That's what's going on now. For the month of August, you've got this mass of birds that are migrating down the Rocky Mountain corridor, and there's about a 15-day window that we can set up and band 50 to 100 birds easily in one day."
The black-chinned hummingbird is the most common in Utah, he says, along with the broad-tail hummingbird found only at higher elevations in the Wasatch. The biggest variety of hummingbirds can be found in southwest Utah, where migrant species such as the calliope and rufous also buzz through on their way to and from Mexico.
Fred Bassett, who founded the nonprofit group Hummingbird Research, sometimes invites people to watch the banding up close, and even lets them hold the birds.
"Now, while we have the bird, I'm going to get some measurements from it. We're going to measure the length of its wing, tail and bill. He weighs 3.1 grams. At that weight, you can stuff nine of those in an envelope and mail him for a first-class stamp."
The leg-band numbers and bird measurements are reported to the National Bird Laboratory. Sometimes, Bassett says, a bird is caught that already has been banded - including one from St. George, banded May 28, that was spotted in Idaho last week.
Batchelder says hummingbirds survive primarily on insects, but the nectar that people put out in feeders gives them a quick energy boost that they appreciate. He advises not to add food coloring to the mixture, and says there's even a study under way to see if it's harmful to the birds.
"Nature's nectar is clear. You don't need the red dye. Nature's nectar is sucrose or sugar-water, so by mixing four-to-one, or three-to-one - that's four parts water, one part sugar. Not brown sugar, not honey. That's what basically, nature's nectar is."
He says the key to attracting hummingbirds is to keep the nectar fresh by changing it every few days. Put out multiple feeders, he says, because some birds are territorial and having more than one feeder signals to others that there's enough to go around.