Thursday, November 01, 2007

Bird Banding Demonstration

Bird Banding Demonstration

Two weeks ago I attended a bird banding demonstration in Milne Hollow, a park in the Don Valley just south of Lawrence Ave. East. It was given by Seabrooke Leckie, a volunteer with the Tommy Thompson Park Bird Research Station. Bird banding is used to track birds on their migration paths. If the bird is recaptured then its band information can be used to identify the bird and find out where it was first banded. This information is logged in a North American database managed by the USGS and Canadian Wildlife Service.

It was a fascinating demonstration and was worth waking up at 6:30 AM. During the 90 minutes I was there, they captured 2 hermit thrushes (Catharus guttatus), 1 black capped chickadee (Poecile atricapillus), 1 song sparrow (Melospiza melodia), and 1 immature male cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) (see video). The birds had their wing length measured, were weighed, and were aged and sexed where possible. They also were examined for fat content which is an indicator of where they are in their migration. Apparently birds only store fat during migration periods. A tiny plastic band was placed around one leg and then they were released.

The birds were caught in mist nets which don't harm the birds. They were transported to the banding area in cloth bags. The entire banding process took less than 5 minutes per bird.The process is designed to cause a minimum of stress on the birds.

Anyone can get their own bird banding demonstration if they visit the TTBRS station on the Leslie Street Spit. Check the website for details.

Note about the video: there's a lot a background noise due to the proximity of the Don Valley Parkway. Also Seabrooke's voice is very soft so you have to listen carefully to hear her explanation. Enjoy!

Seabrooke handles a hermit thrush

Spreading the wing feathers. This checks for age, signs of moulting, and general health of the bird

Placing a band on the leg

Birds store fat for long migrations. The fat is stored in the chest area. By blowing gently on the chest feathers, the fatty tissue is exposed. The amount of fat is rated on a scale of 1-7.

A Black-capped Chickadee is held securely in the hand as it awaits its measurements

A very scruffy looking immature cardinal waits his turn

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