About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

What is Bird Banding?

Bird Marking is a Time-honored Method for Repeatedly Identifying Individual Birds

At one time people thought some birds in the wild would hide away all winter in a tree like a bear. It was hard to keep track of which bird was which and where they all went at different times of the year.

In 1902, Dr. Paul Bartsch of the Smithsonian Institution initiated systematic, scientific bird banding in North America. In his notes he wrote: "There are still many unsolved problems about bird life, among which are the age that birds attain, the exact time at which some birds acquire their adult dress, and the changes which occur in this with years. Little, too, is known about the laws and routes of bird migration, and much less about the final disposition of the untold thousands which are annually produced."

Bird banding and bird marking has become far more complex and systematic since Bartsch’s time. Today's system uses bands, tags, flags, collars, markers etc. depending on the bird. And tomorrow’s technology could gather even more interesting information to study.

However basic bird banding still involves the capture of birds in a long stretched out mesh net, putting a metal or plastic band around the leg and then releasing the bird back into the wild. Before its release the bander records the time and place the bird is banded, and the birds age, sex, and any other pertinent information and sends it to the Bird Banding Laboratory.

The North American Bird Banding Program is jointly administered by the United States Department of the Interior and the Canadian Wildlife Service. If you ever find a dead bird with a band you can call 1-800-327-BAND (2263) with the band number, and how, when and where the bird was found. This can help with the migration, longevity, mortality, and population studies. Click HERE to find the reports on how long a bird can live and what is the oldest banded bird.

1) 100 Years of Bird Banding in North America 1902- 2002:


Julie Craves said...

If any of your readers are interested in a local program, they can visit the Bird Banding section of the Rouge River Bird Observatory web site (http://www.rrbo.org/band) -- there is a short video of the bird banding process on the protocol page, and lots of information on the birds we've banded and what we've learned!

Wild Birds Unlimited Mid-Michigan said...

Thank you for the link! I watched your video. It always amazes me that these little birds are so strong.