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By Dan Huntley
© The York Observer
Rock Hill, South Carolina
(Published 28 July 2001)

CHESTER, SC--White-winged and no bigger than a baby's fist, the creature hovered for an eye blink at the red plastic feeder before the trap door banged shut.

"I've seen two, maybe three white hummingbirds in my life, and I've seen thousands of hummingbirds. This is a rare sight indeed," said naturalist/educator Bill Hilton Jr., who captured the white bird Friday morning. "You could spend a lifetime looking at birds and never see this."

Hilton is one of two researchers in the Carolinas authorized by the federal government to band one of the world's smallest birds. The numbered ring on its needle-size leg will allow the bird to be identified around the Western Hemisphere. Researchers know the hummingbirds range from Nova Scotia to Panama, but they're still learning about their longevity and migration routes.

Hilton was alerted late Thursday that Mac and Agnes Banks of rural Chester County had a white hummer at their backyard feeder. The bird, which is classified as a ruby-throat, became only the 13th with the white color pattern to be captured and banded in the United States. The white-breasted bird--with champagne-colored spots on its wings and tail - looked like a large white moth hovering beside normal, dark-winged hummingbirds.

"I knew we had something special when I looked out the window and saw that little fellow," said retired highway department worker Mac Banks. He and his wife fill two quart-sized feeders with sugar water twice daily.

On Friday morning, 27 hummingbirds were hovering around a single feeder, and there were probably twice as many in the surrounding yard. With their wings beating up to 75 times per second, the humming in the Banks' back yard sounded like a roomful of card-shufflers.

Hilton attached a tiny metal band to the hummingbird's leg--Y14766--and Mac Banks held the bird in his cupped hands up above his chest.

And the cotton fluff flew away.

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Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History is a non-profit research & education organization in York, South Carolina USA; phone (803) 684-5852. Directed by Bill Hilton Jr., aka The Piedmont Naturalist, it is the parent organization for Operation RubyThroat. Contents of this website--including articles and photos--may NOT be duplicated, modified, or used in any way except with the express written permission of Hilton Pond Center. All rights reserved worldwide. To obtain permission for use or for further assistance on accessing this Web site, contact the Webmaster.