Hilton is one of only 150 people in North America with a government permit to capture hummingbirds and attach ultra-tiny metal bands to their legs to track their migrations and learn more about them. So far, he has banded nearly 5,000 hummers at his center in South Carolina and more than 1,000 in Central America — the first researcher to systematically band and observe ruby-throats on both their summer nesting grounds and their winter grounds.
He has packed all of his information and lore about the birds into a remarkably comprehensive website, www.rubythroat.org. Check it out: Practically any information you want about ruby-throats is there.
Hilton said that as long as he has studied ruby-throated hummingbirds, he never ceases to be amazed at their toughness. Despite being only the size of an adult human thumb, many of these birds fly nonstop across the Gulf of Mexico during fall and spring migration, a round trip of more than 900 miles.
One new thing that Hilton has learned from his studies is that ruby-throated hummingbirds not only are very territorial and feisty on their spring nesting grounds, but they behave the same way on their winter grounds.
IN THE SKY: The moon will be full on Friday (May 24) — the "Planting Moon," as the Cherokee peoples called May's full moon, said David Dundee, Tellus Science Museum astronomer. Mercury, Venus and Jupiter are very low in the west just after dark. Saturn is in the east just after dark and will appear near the moon on Wednesday night (May 22). Mars is not easily seen right now.