- Pet forum for dogs cats and humans 


Banding March birds at Hazel Run

May 27th, 2011, 09:36 AM
I just realized I never posted the pics of the banding session we had here at the end of March. Thought it might interest those of you who'd never seen it done.

As a fundraiser at a local nature center (Beaver Creek Reserve out of Fall Creek), the bird banding crew auctioned off a session at a private residence. Winner got to choose the date and location for the banding. hazel had the high bid! :highfive:

Although the Main Event was to be in May, the crew came out at the end of March for a trial run. The hundreds of goldfinches we were hosting at the time didn't cooperate, but it was useful as a way to figure out net placement and where to set up the recording station for the Main Event.

The mist nets were strung outside the fence in close proximity to the feeders. We have an exposed basement, so we set up tables in the basement, an easy 50-ft walk to the nets and feeders.


Every bander has a preferred tool used as an aid in removing birds from mist nets. Karen, for example, used crochet hooks! In the background you can see the strings of bands set up according to size. Bird species are grouped by size and each has a particular size of band that is used.

If looks could kill, this black-capped chickadee would have had us dead and buried. :eek:


About to leave, unscathed and with some new jewelry:


May 27th, 2011, 09:42 AM
A purple finch waits patiently in the net while Augie removes another nearby.


I learned something new about purple finches. Birds less than two years of age all look like females!! It isn't until their second spring (at the beginning of their third year since they're hatched in late spring) that the males begin putting on that raspberry coloration. So this bird is aged as "after second year" since he's already got that bright pink:


While this one could be either a female or a male in its first or second year:


May 27th, 2011, 09:48 AM
A female hairy woodpecker about to be released after banding. Notice the absence of the red patch on the back of the head.


This one clearly shows red, so it's a male. It's not typical, though, in that the red is in two patches. Normally, there would be a single bigger patch.


Hairy woodpeckers are really quite pugnacious. They know how to use those bills. Releasing these guys is always a relief--notice the bloody fingers :eek:


May 27th, 2011, 09:57 AM
The mist nets are so fine that most birds don't see them before they hit them. There are also pockets that run the length of the nets and the birds often fall into them. Sometimes some feathers get rumpled, but a little preening will fix that.

Here an American goldfinch male (already getting yellow and putting on his dark cap) hangs in the net, probably trying to figure out what just happened.


The bird is carefully extracted from the nets. The banders always do this part bare-handed so they can always monitor exactly how firmly they're holding the birds. This is one way they prevent injury to them.


Once free of the nets, the birds are placed in cotton sacks until it's time to collect the data.


Typically, it only takes at most a handful of minutes between the bird hitting the net and the release after processing.

May 27th, 2011, 10:00 AM
Here's a shot of Karen using her trusty crochet hook to safely untangle a black-capped chickadee from a net:

Our one and only mourning dove for the day. Mourning doves are a bit large for the nets used--normally they just bounce off or are able to free themselves. So this one was a bonus.

A slate-colored junco about to be released:

May 27th, 2011, 10:01 AM
wow...our duck banding is nothing like that!! thats truly amazing Hazel.

May 27th, 2011, 10:03 AM
The third member of the crew out that day, Dan, extracts a bird from the nets:

One of the white-breasted nuthatches banded that morning:

And finally, time to take the nets down and call it a day.

May 27th, 2011, 10:06 AM
how often do they do this hazel? twice a year? That must have been so interesting.

May 27th, 2011, 10:07 AM
I was just working on the pictures from May 24th (the Main Event)...almost done with them...and I realized I'd never posted these. :o Better late than never I suppose...

How do they band ducks, Melinda? During the eclipse phase? Do they do the ducklings, too?

May 27th, 2011, 10:09 AM
how often do they do this hazel? twice a year? That must have been so interesting.
Not sure. Since I more or less bribed them to come bidding :D...they'd never been out before. Our May Main Event was pretty spectacular, so I'm hoping they'll come out to follow up next year! :fingerscr (without bribes now that we're on a fixed income :laughing:)

Regardless, if any of the birds banded here are found elsewhere, we'll get a report from the BCR banding crew as to where and how the bird was recovered. :thumbs up

May 27th, 2011, 10:15 AM
its done at the bird sanctuary in Morrisburg Ont. there is a HUGE landing\holding pen that is put together every fall, the ducks know a certain time of day is feeding time, so down they come into the landing pen, people in waders "herd" them into the holding pen (top is chain link fencing) usually up to 300 are done each time. volunteers go into the holding pen and pick up each duck, (you take both wings and sort of pull them back till they touch) this holds the duck without hurting him, then they put the band on and check out the duck.

May 27th, 2011, 10:17 AM
Now that must be exhausting work! Ducks are a lot stronger than woodpeckers and chickadees. :D And 300 at a time! :eek: How many volunteers does it take?

May 27th, 2011, 10:40 AM
well usually one or two senior classes from the highschools will help out, and they have a group called friends of the sanctuary that also help so usually about 70 helpers

May 27th, 2011, 12:08 PM
That's a lot of people!!! And what an experience for the high schoolers!

I didn't participate in any banding sessions until college. We banded some of the migrating song birds in a woods on campus for an ornithology class, and I helped out a couple of students doing research on raptors. Banding a raptor is a lot different than banding a nuthatch. I remember how much in awe I was of the weight and power of the hawks we worked with!

May 27th, 2011, 12:28 PM
Are they banding the birds to keep track of them - i think I missed the purpose of the banding.

These shots are well done btw - Lovely eye sharpness on most of these :highfive:

May 27th, 2011, 01:46 PM
Are they banding the birds to keep track of them - i think I missed the purpose of the banding.

Yup. They do population demographic studies and migration studies with banding data.

For instance, there is a downy woodpecker from another site that has been in the nets 45 times over the past 11 years. Since he was an adult when banded, they know he's at least 12 years old! Amazing for such a small critter!

Any time a banded bird is recaptured or if a bird is found dead and the band is recovered, the date and location get entered into the data base and the information comes back to the original banding crew. So if one of the grosbeaks we banded at the Main Event is recaptured by a crew during winter, we'll find out where the bird migrates to. Sometimes, if a population is showing a decline, banding information can give clues as to why. Since banding information includes locations, a correlation can be made between the habitat loss and the decline in numbers.

May 27th, 2011, 02:15 PM
That's so interesting.
Sorry for the threadjack here w/this question but I've always wondered something.

Can the banding be detrimental to the individual bird? (I've come to accept that it's probably necessary)

2 things come to mind:
- Can the stress of the banding itself shorten their lives or cause individual birds to have a heart attack for example?
- I realize this is subtle, but can the banding also have a detrimental effect on mating? Meaning might bird A (unbanded) not mate with bird B because bird B is banded (thus 'possibly' not normal or suitable for mating in the eyes of the bird)?


May 27th, 2011, 02:40 PM
Marko I follow a transmitter fixed peregrine falcon now for approx 3 yrs...she was fixed with the transmitter on the day she was banded..(its very small but does have an antenna) anyway I have followed her through three migrations from Chille Peru to her nest in Greenland where she stays for approx 3 months and then she comes home...she stopped on a light post last year in Montanna and they were able to find the actual pole she landed on by her GPS settings! the GPS coordinates tell you amazing places these birds have been! its cool!:thumbs up

I dont beleive its detrimental at all to the birds. I have been following the falcon bandings and yes they are upset but they quickly recover after a little while. As Hazel said all that data is important and yes we can tell when there has been a fatality as well if its reported.

May 27th, 2011, 04:13 PM
They do have an inevitable small number of injuries and fatalities during the banding process, Marko. That being said, banders do undergo a fair amount of training before they can get a license from US Fish and Wildlife Service and that helps keep the incidence of injury low. Some birds with underlying conditions probably do die, but the percentage of deaths is also very low. In the two sessions here, they've banded over 150 birds. Even one injury or death would be well less than 1% for that many birds and they've had no injuries or deaths at all.

As for after banding, I suppose it's possible that a mate might notice the band. However, birds seem to look for specific characteristics in a possible mate that might indicate it's fitness as a partner. Behavior, plumage condition and color, even song, can be used to signal fitness. I'm thinking that absence or presence of a band wouldn't affect mating preferences as long as it's not influencing the factors that birds have evolved to rely on for making choices. Not sure if they've done any studies specifically on that aspect of it or not, though. :shrug:

It's probably not possible to get good data on whether the process shortens their lives, either. Even if you can locate a dead bird, determining cause of death after the fact in an old carcass isn't easy, and relating a proximal cause of death due to disease or injury back to the stress from banding would be nigh to impossible. Since most birds likely die from predation and are eaten, there's not much evidence to gather. The best they can do is look at recaptures and try to paint a picture of longevity by how often and for how long they continue to see the same individuals. They do catch many of the same birds each year, often for many years in a row (like that downy woodpecker).

May 28th, 2011, 01:09 PM
Thanks for indulging my questions Winston and HRP!

May 28th, 2011, 02:27 PM
They were good questions! I asked some of the same ones before I allowed them to start the banding...high bid or no. :o

May 28th, 2011, 03:07 PM
Absolutely fascinating! And great photos!

Thank you for posting this.


May 28th, 2011, 04:18 PM
Very well educated thread Hazel. Thank you for sharing your wonderful experiences.

So tell me, are some of those fingers bleeding because of the hard work and dedication towards banding or, are they just hang nails? :D

May 28th, 2011, 04:21 PM
The woodpeckers were drawing blood :eek:

At least the rose-breasted grosbeaks weren't breaking the the May banding. :o

May 28th, 2011, 04:36 PM
Well I guess if they couldn't peck at wood, they needed to peck at something--OUCH! :eek:

May 28th, 2011, 04:48 PM
:laughing: Dang hairies!! The downy woodpeckers were much better behaved...or maybe they just couldn't peck as hard cuz they're so small. :D