When Allen Chartier was 8 years old, he made a life-changing decision: Dinosaurs and outer space were out… it was time to shift his interest to birds.
“My uncle had a big influence on me growing up,” Allen says. “He was a birdwatcher and used to tell me about all the interesting birds he saw during his service in World War II. It was so intriguing to hear those stories.”
By age 11, Allen had his own set of binoculars and a bird book. With those, he could name most of the birds in his neighborhood. Over the years, Allen’s love for birds grew, and he began developing a fascination for hummingbirds.
“I’m into pretty colors,” Allen said. “I marvel at the shiny, iridescent greens and red throats of ruby-throated hummingbirds.”
It’s not just ruby-throats that Allen loves, even though it is the only hummingbird that regularly frequents his Inkster, Michigan backyard. He and his wife, Nancy, have traveled to 28 countries and have seen nearly half of the world’s 339 hummingbird species. One of their favorites is the Ecuadorian hillstar, a hummingbird in Ecuador known for hanging upside down on flowers. The wedge-tailed saber wing is another interesting hummingbird that they came across in Mexico. Allen describes this bird as having a unique song with a long, gurgling twitter.
“It was one of the most unbelievable sounds I’ve ever heard from a bird,” he says.
The more Allen learned about hummingbirds, the more captivated he became. As he looked around for hummingbird information specific to his area, there was a lot missing. Allen couldn’t find the kind of information he was after, so he took matters into his own hands and joined the world of hummingbird banding.
“That’s when I started the Great Lakes Hummer Net, and I became a licensed hummingbird bander,” Allen said. “Since 2000, I’ve banded hundreds of hummingbirds.”
Banding Hummingbirds is His Passion
Allen travels all over Michigan, Indiana and Ohio to band hummingbirds at parks, nature centers and even private backyards. He catches them in special traps, then bands them in less than 2 minutes. Birds & Blooms reader Carl Pascoe hosted Allen at his house to band more than 50 hummingbirds on his balcony in West Bloomfield, Michigan.
“Our hope is that one day a bird banded on our balcony will be recaptured by another bander somewhere along its migration route.” Carl says. “This will add another piece to the puzzle of where these amazing little creatures travel in their remarkable journeys.”
Hummingbird banding isn’t all the Great Lakes Hummer Net does. Allen says his organization provides hummingbird information for all fans in the area.
“I want people to send me their observations related to nesting, arrival time, migration, etc. of hummingbirds,” Allen says. “This will help me learn more about all of the hummingbirds in the region.”
While Allen mostly sees ruby-throats in his area, he always keeps his eye out for the rare appearances of others. He’s banded a handful of rufous hummingbirds, and has also heard of sightings of an Anna’s in Ohio and a black-chinned in Indiana.
“I get to see some pretty amazing things,” Allen says. “This is just a hobby, but it’s also the kind of hobby that takes over.”