Banding: A Way to Learn About Birds
Contributed by Dr. David Aborn
is a useful tool in research. It involves catching birds in soft fabric
nets and putting a small numbered metal bend on the bird's leg, like an
Can We Learn from Banding Birds?
Individual identification of birds makes possible studies of
dispersal and migration, behavior and social structure, life-span and
survival rate, reproductive success and population growth. When banded
birds are captured, released, and reported from somewhere else we can
retrace the movements of the individual bird. In this way we have learned
that some species fly south using one pathway and return north by another.
We have also learned where different species breed and where they spend
Banding in Action (Click for larger pictures.)
a Gray Catbird
Banded Gray Catbird
Warbler in Net
an Ovenbird's Fat
Body Condition: An Important Indicator
One important aspect of banding in my research is looking at body condition.
I am trying to see if urban parks are good places for migrants to rest
and refuel during migration. This means I have to be able to tell one
bird from another, so that if I recapture a bird I can see if it has gained
or lost weight and fat. A bird's skin is very thin, and you can actually
see the fat underneath. Fat is very important, because it is the fuel
birds use for migration. If a park provides adequate food and shelter,
then I should see birds gain weight and fat. If the habitat is poor, then
the birds should lose weight and fat.
Banding: Permit Required
Because banding birds requires capturing the birds and handling them,
the banding of birds in the United States is controlled by the US Fish
and Wildlife Service. People who want to apply for a banding permit must
be able to show that they are qualified to safely trap, handle, and band
the birds. Some potential banders learn in an apprenticeship program,
working one-on-one with an active bander. Others learn by visiting bird
observatories or banding groups. Still others take courses in banding
and handling birds. It takes a lot of work and dedication to get a banding
permit, but it is worth it because you get to learn so much!
Birds are Banded
from long-term banding site at Crown Point, New York
you see the net?
catch songbirds in a mist net
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