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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Bird Banding at NBNC - 2011 Report

It is said that “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,” and this was certainly the case at North Branch Nature Center, where bird banding was formally launched in the summer of 2011. In bird banding, songbirds are captured in mist nets, carefully removed, identified and measured, and "tagged" with a band before being released. Bands look like little metal bracelets the birds wear on their ankles to help identify them if they are recaptured in the future.

Being able to differentiate individual birds allows banders to gain insight into their abundance, productivity, survival rate, and other demographics that would not otherwise be possible. Furthermore, close examination of birds-in-the-hand can reveal anatomical traits that would be indistinguishable through binoculars, such as weight, feather molt, breeding status, and others. Decades of banding has demonstrated this technique to be a safe, cost effective way of learning more about birds, with meaningful insights towards improving avian conservation.

The data collected this year has already shed some light on the birds of NBNC. Of the 32 species of birds that were caught, ten species had individuals that were recaptured, which is a good indication that these species were sticking around, perhaps to breed. One Common Yellowthroat was caught on five separate occasions between June 1 and July 16! It will be especially interesting next year to see how many banded birds return to NBNC after spending the winter in the tropics.

In addition to providing important scientific data, banding has offered a unique way for children and adults at NBNC to connect with birds. Over 75 children and 20 adults attended banding demonstrations, getting an up-close look at how scientists study birds. Some kids even helped release birds, a privilege that has inspired awe, curiosity, and a greater consciousness of how extraordinary birds are.

Download a full copy of this report, including graphs and tables.

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