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How Birds Are Banded May 25, 2010

Posted by Wapello Warbler in Birds, Nature.

Saturday, I had the pleasure of attending a bird banding demonstration at the Port Louisa National Wildlife Refuge. The following pictures show how it’s done.

First you have to catch a bird.

Banders use mist nets (long, nearly invisible nets mounted between poles) to make the catch. The tricky part is removing the bird from the net. Because the birds become entangled in odd ways, it takes patience and experience to remove them safely.

Can you see the net? This robin had got his tongue tangled in it. After he was removed, he was placed in a special carry bag and returned to the banding station.

At the station, the first task is to identify the bird. This little lady was hard to identify, but we finally agreed she was a Common Yellowthroat.

Checking the bird’s wingspan and markings is part of the identification process. Look carefully and you’ll see this is a different bird. She is a female Indigo Bunting.

We also checked the birds for brood spots. Those are bare spots on the lower belly of nesting females. Here the bander is checking a male Cardinal just for demonstration purposes.

Here, she’s checking a young Robin’s skull. Like those of human children, birds’ skulls solidify with age, so examining the skull can tell one approximately how old the bird is. Depending on the type of study being performed, banders will also gather other information, such as weight, amount of body fat, or blood samples.

The next step is to record the data and the band number for later entry into a national database. The band identifies both the bird and the bander for later reference. If you should ever find a dead bird with a band, remove the band and look on the inside. You’ll find an address where you can send the band.

The band is applied with a special crimping tool. Bigger birds get bigger bands. Bands help researchers figure out the migration paths of different kinds of birds, how long they live, and things like that.

Here’s a male Common Yellowthroat posing for a picture after his banding has been completed.

Finally, the bird is released from a flat hand. Throwing the bird into the air could result in an injury if the bird hasn’t realized it is free.

In the United States you have to have a license to band birds. To get the license you need to be properly trained and you need to be part of a recognized research project.

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