Use of RFID technology to characterize feeder visitations and contact network of hummingbirds in urban habitats

Ruta R. Bandivadekar, Pranav S. Pandit, Rahel Sollmann, Michael J. Thomas, Scott M. Logan, Jennifer C. Brown, A. Peter Klimley, Lisa A. Tell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Despite the popular use of hummingbird feeders, there are limited studies evaluating the effects of congregation, sharing food resources and increased contact when hummingbirds visit feeders in urban landscapes. To evaluate behavioral interactions occurring at feeders, we tagged 230 individuals of two species, Anna's and Allen's Hummingbirds, with passive integrated transponder tags and recorded their visits with RFID transceivers at feeders. For detecting the presence of tagged birds, we developed an RFID equipped feeding station using a commercially available antenna and RFID transceiver. Data recorded included the number of feeder visits, time spent at the feeder, simultaneous feeder visitation by different individuals, and identifying which feeders were most commonly visited by tagged birds. For the study period (September 2016 to March 2018), 118,017 detections were recorded at seven feeding stations located at three California sites. The rate of tagged birds returning to RFID equipped feeders at least once was 61.3% (141/230 birds). Females stayed at feeders longer than males per visit. We identified primary, secondary and tertiary feeders at Sites 2 and 3, according to the frequency of visitation to them, with a mean percentage of 86.9% (SD±19.13) visits to a primary feeder for each tagged hummingbird. During spring and summer, hummingbirds visited feeders most often in morning and evening hours. Feeder visits by males overlapped in time with other males more frequently than other females. The analysis of the contact network at the feeders did not distinguish any significant differences between age or sex. Although most hummingbirds visited the feeders during the daytime, our system recorded night feeder visitations (n = 7 hummingbirds) at one site. This efficient use of RFID technology to characterize feeder visitations and contact networks of hummingbirds in urban habitats could be used in the future to elucidate behaviors, population dynamics and community structure of hummingbirds visiting feeders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0208057
JournalPLoS One
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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