About Bird Banding

Palm Warbler in the photographer's grip

Bird banding is a scientific research tool used to study many aspects of birds' lives.  Some examples of these are migration, site fidelity (do birds return to the same location), breeding information (which birds are nesting in the particular habitat being studied), and life span.

Banding is done by highly trained and licensed people.  To be licensed one must be able to handle birds safely, correctly identify birds, determine characteristics of the bird (age, sex, molting, etc.)  and have worked under a trainer.  Safety of the birds is the primary concern.  In addition, one must usually have both federal and state permits to band.  There are safe ways to handle birds such that the impact to them is minimized.  The above photograph shows a bird being held in the "photographer's grip".  This allows the legs to be securely held so that the bird can be documented or inspected.  The other way to hold birds is in the "bander's grip".  In photographs the bird may appear a bit choked but remember that the feathers are thick enough here to cushion and the slight pressure is actually securing the bird, cradling it, but not strong enough to squeeze it.  Many pictures on this blog will be birds in the bander's grip.  Be assured that if the bird was at all stressed, it would have been released rather than photographed.

Gray Catbird in the bander's grip

Bands are uniquely numbered.  They are lightweight.  I have never seen a bird agitated by a band.  I have banded birds that have almost immediately returned to feeding at a feeding station.  There are also color bands that give the researcher more information about a bird just by observation without needing to recapture it.  We will not be using color bands at Possum Long.

Northern Cardinal - female

This photograph was not taken at Possum Long but you can see the band on its leg.  Once you become aware of bird banding, it is fun to see if any birds you encounter while birding are banded.

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