Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Wildlife Wednesday - Passerine bird banding

Today was our 2nd Wildlife Wednesday of the semester, and today's theme was mist netting and bird banding any of the Passerine's that came our way.

What does Passerine refer to? Perching birds, and commonly referred to as our song birds.

Several students, myself, and Professor John, and Conservation Dept Tech Sasha all met up at our East Hill Campus in Naples this morning. Last week John and Sasha went to the EHC to scope out a place to mount the mist net, so today all we had to do was set up the rebar and netting and walk away.

In my opinion, we were wildly successful, meaning many birds were caught, and there were a variety of birds!

Sasha, John and Adam setting the rebar.
We set the net between the woods/shrubby area, and the bird feeder :) , and walked away for 10 minutes to set up the banding station inside the house (doesn't everyone get to experience field work and animal processing in the comforts of indoor plumbing and heat???).

Sasha pulling the mist net across.
After 10 minutes had passed, we went out to check the net: 3 Black-capped Chickadees! Never have I personally been so excited to see such a common animal. I find myself realizing this time and time again recently- some of the most common animals are still REALLY cool! I see them often, yet at a distance, I just take them for granted. Up close though, those BCCs have beautiful plumage and such bright little eyes!

Here's the net completely set up.

The net is so fine and light, that the birds don't even see it, and easily get VERY tangled in it.
See below.

Black-capped Chickadee thoroughly tangled in the mist net, but comfortably being untangled while in the banding grip!

Before I continue on with the cool bird pictures, I want to show the "tools" of the trade.

John's banding tackle box with all of the essentials such as: different sized bands, special pliers meant for banding, cloth bags to store the birds during processing, and hand sanitizer.

Two different sized bands. On the left, probably appropriate for woodpeckers, and on the right, appropriate for BCCs.

Here are the pliers and the size bands we used for most of the birds.

This card is used to determine band size, if you are unsure. Just slip the bird's leg into a slot until you find one that's not too big, not too small...but just right!

John has one freed BCC and Sasha works on another, while students watch...

Inside now, John has the BCC in a 'photographer's grip', commonly used for getting good pics of the birds! About to clamp the first band on!

Because birds are migratory, and can be relatively long-lived...bands are managed on the state and federal level. Age, sex, location of banding, species, and band # all have to be recorded on a data sheet and submitted. I don't BELIEVE there are 2 numbers the same (someone correct me if I'm wrong?), kind of like a license plate. So, the theory is...if one of the birds we banded today, migrated to Tenessee, and caught could be traced back to NY with all it's information in tow. With mammal tags, they are not as closely regulated because, and especially small mammals, they have VERY short life spans. Like, less than a year. And, they don't mass migrate over long distances like many birds do. In the picture to the left, it may look like John is nipping that little BCC's leg off, but no fear- he's not! The pliers have a hole in the nose that fits the specific band sizes and NO SMALLER. So, you can only clamp it as small as the band, which is just larger than the diameter of that birds leg. I'm sure accidents do happen where the ends of the band don't line up as they should, or it over-pinches/crimps, but that happens less than when all goes the way it should.

I was given a bird to release! I think I stated this in an earlier blog...but it's QUITE the rush to release a wild animal from your hands! I try not to think of it as a terrified little creature trying to escape, but as an amazing tiny organism full of energy and life returning to the wild!

The NEXT capture, was very exciting! A lively, vivacious, "bitey"...

Blue Jay! By the way, all of those above adjectives are all good things for a wild animal to be while handling them.

Sasha struggled a bit getting this guy/gal out of the net because of the height of it...and because he was clenching his feet around the net in a death grip! ...(perching bird)...

Inside, we got to check out the beautiful plumage.

My dear friend, and NON Conservation student, Julie tagged along for the morning. She had never experienced bird banding before, and was a little nervous to tag a little guy. So, with some gentle encouragement, she agreed to band the Blue Jay!

She just sent me a text message, and she had a great time!
Looking forward to having her along for the ride again...

We also caught many Dark-eyed Juncos, but my phone died (and that's what I was taking pictures with...I know, get a real camera!). If I can beg, borrow, or steal some pictures from someone else who was there, I will add Junco pics below! They are a pretty, slate-colored little bird...

Thanks to John and Sasha for facilitating and thanks to the birds for flying into our net!


  1. Interesting post. I'll bet the Blue Jay was a hand full.


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