Humming Bird Festival July 31

On Saturday, July 31st, people from all over will gather at River Lake Inn in Colon, Michigan to see Ruby-throated Hummingbirds captured and banded.  But, it is the hummingbirds that will set the record from distance traveled to be there—flying more than 4,000 miles round-trip since they left the area last fall!

Weighing about the same as a penny, the Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilocus colubris), is Michigan’s smallest bird.  Yet, despite its small size, it holds a large fascination with the public and a sizable amount of mythology.  One of the myths associated with this diminutive creature, says Allen Chartier, a Michigan hummingbird authority, is that hummingbirds fly south each year on the backs of migrating geese.  Another is that hummingbirds feed exclusively on nectar (insects are also a major component of its diet).

To clear up many of these myths and misunderstandings, and to educate people about the fascinating life of hummingbirds, and natural history in general, Chartier will take part in the 4th annual Michigan Hummingbird Festival on Saturday, July 31st at River Lake Inn Trails & Gardens located near Colon, Michigan.  River Lake Inn is well known for its hummingbird and butterfly gardens.

At last year’s Michigan Hummingbird Festival, held at the same location, 51 Ruby-throated Hummingbirds were banded.  Of those, nine were adult males, 40 adult females and two immature females.  Five additional birds were recaptures from banding in previous years—three adult females originally banded in 2008, one adult female originally banded in 2007 (which was also recaptured in 2008), and one adult female originally banded in 2006.  Since hummingbirds spend the winter in Central America, each season the return requires a journey of about two thousand miles—a remarkable feat for such a diminutive creature.

The Michigan Hummingbird Festival is certainly growing in both attendance and popularity.  More than 700 people, from as far away as Texas, came to participate, last year.  Organizer, Pat Morgan, says, “Since the festival began, many participants return each year and as more people hear about the event, we have seen a large increase in activity.”  She adds it is encouraging to see both young families and seniors take such an interest in seeing and learning about hummingbirds.

Allen Chartier is one of only two federally-licensed hummingbird banders in Michigan.  Brenda Keith, a resident of Vicksburg, is also licensed to band hummingbirds under Allen’s banding permit.  Brenda, and her husband Richard Keith, operate one of the country’s most active year-round bird-banding stations. It is located in southern Kalamazoo County.

Allen Chartier and both Brenda Keith and Rich Keith, will return to interact with the public and share their expertise about our native hummingbird and provide live demonstrations of capturing and banding hummingbirds.   Live banding demonstrations begin at 8:00 am until 11:00 am.

Attendees will have an up-close opportunity to view how the entire hummingbird banding process (including capture, weighing, measuring, determining age and sex) is done.

For a small fee, which supports hummingbird research, individuals may “Adopt-a-Hummer” and receive recapture-data recovered for their “adopted” hummingbird banded at this year’s event, if it is recaptured.  Keith says, “People (and families) love to adopt a hummingbird and know that it is somewhere out in the wild wearing the little band on its leg with the number on their certificate and contributing to on-going research about these marvelous creatures.”

Festival organizer, Pat Morgan says, “While hummingbirds are the main attraction, they are not the only draw at this event.”  Russ Schipper, with the Kalamazoo Audubon Society, will lead a nature walk from 10:30 a.m. until 11:30 a.m.  A “Live Birds of Prey” presentation will be offered by Kalamazoo Nature Center from 11:30 am to 12:30 pm.  Magician Rick Fisher will stroll the festival grounds from 12:00 pm to 2:00 pm and Becky Beard and her puppets will entertain from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm.

Self-guided walking tours are also offered on River Lake Inn’s nature trails, Freiburger Nature Trail and River Lake Inn’s Butterfly Garden.  Trail tours are also available with guides who will take guests via motorized cart.

Vendors, artists and exhibitors will display nature-related items for sale.  Representatives from many non-profit organizations will also be on hand to interact with visitors.

Morgan adds, “This is truly an event for all ages.  Throughout the day, there are many activities for children of all ages from 8:00 am to 3:00 pm.  It’s a day to bring your curiosity, your camera and your questions.”
All events, except the afternoon presentations, are free to the public. There is a $4 parking fee per vehicle.

Participants are invited to attend an afternoon series of four presentations from 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm.  The presentations, will be held in the Colon High School cafeteria. Topics include:

  • Michigan Hummingbird Research – Allen Chartier
  • Attracting Butterflies with Native Plants – Ilse Gebhard
  • Intro to Hummingbird Photography – Josh Haas
  • Creating a Hummingbird Haven – Allen Chartier

The fee, which covers all four presentations, is $20 per person. Tickets are available in advance and seating is limited.

The evening of the festival, River Lake Inn will feature hummingbird festival specials.  Dinner reservations are recommended.

For more information about the 4th Annual Michigan Hummingbird Festival, please visit River Lake Inn’s website at or by calling (269) 432-2626.  River Lake Inn is located at 767 Ralston Road, near Colon, Michigan.

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