Ijams Nature Center Hummingbird Festival

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By Ethan Lail, with help from his mother Allison; photos by Allison Lail

Here in East Tennessee, what do we have in our own backyard? Trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park! Not only can we enjoy them year round on foot, but also on horseback. And if you are not able to make it to the trails in the mountains, in Knoxville we have Ijams Nature Center – a fun learning nature center for children of all ages, 0-100 years old. Planned activities and events are scheduled throughout the year.

On Saturday August 24, 2019 Ijams Nature Center hosted the 9th annual Wonder of Hummingbirds Festival, where Hummingbirds were caught, banded, examined, measured, and released. There were lots of vendors, including locally handmade jewelry, art, paintings, soaps, local honey, and bread. There were variety of children’s activities, including an outdoor obstacle course, coloring Hummingbird spinners art, and even “band” bracelets with child’s name and information, just like the bands the Hummingbirds wear.

There were speakers on nature topics and wildlife educational demonstrations.  Some of the speakers and topics for the day were:

“Monarch Butterflies: From Egg to Migration” by Stephen Lyn Bales, author, illustrator, naturalist

“Hummingbirds – Small, but Mighty Marvels” by Tyler Edmonson of Ijams Nature Center

“Backyard Butterflies” by Steve McGaffin of the Knoxville Zoo

“A Hummingbird for All Seasons” by Mark Armstrong, East Tennessee Avian Research

But the main attraction was the opportunity to get up close to Ruby-throated Hummingbirds and learn about them during the banding demonstrations by Mark Armstrong, certified Master Bander.

Nine-year-old Ethan Lail and his four-year-old brother Calvin and mother attended the festival. Here’s what Ethan enjoyed and learned at the festival.

A few questions you may ask. Does banding hurt the Hummingbirds? Not at all; it’s just like you or I wearing a bracelet or ring on our finger.

Why does the Nature Center band Hummingbirds? To monitor and keep track of their journeys in life, such as where they live and where they travel.

Speaking of travel, did you know that certain Hummingbirds migrate from North America all the way to the southern parts of South America? Most spend their winter in Mexico and begin their journey in late August; hence why the festival is scheduled now.  

On their long journey, they will encounter lots of obstacles along the way, just like in the simulated children’s obstacle course; obstacles such as power lines, tall buildings, windows, and predators that may eat these precious little birds. I especially enjoyed the obstacle course and outdoor play area at Ijams!

Did you know that Hummingbirds cannot walk! But they can fly forwards, backwards, and side to side.

How are Hummingbirds so important to our environment? As migratory birds, the purpose of the Hummingbirds is to help pollinate tropical and temperate zone plants, located thousands of miles apart. According to my research, Hummingbird ecosystems are important for the entire ecological system because 75% of the world’s flowers rely on insects, bats, and birds for pollination.

What colors can these birds see? Red and vibrant colors. It is best to use a special Hummingbird feeder that is red with yellow, and to not use red dye added to the sugar water because red dye can kill the birds. You can also plant a variety of flowers to attract these birds.

Some other interesting exhibits we saw while at Ijams Nature Center: a 32-year-old rat snake that is six foot three inches long who has been raised at Ijams. We saw a rescued box turtle who loves to eat worms as his favorite meal. Tremont Institute from the Great Smoky Mountain National Park brought a box with a Beaver skull, Turtle shell, and a variety of other items found in nature. I also saw a snapping turtle, a hawk, and a turkey vulture. My favorite part of the festival was the obstacle course, outdoor play area, and tasting local pear honey on bread. Yum!

Find more information at: https://ijams.org/hummingbird-festival/

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