Island Updates

bird science

Bird Banding on Hurricane Island

Post By Chloe Tremper, Science Educator

Determining the appropriate band size for this female American Redstart

This past week, Hurricane Island was host to an Institute for Bird Populations (IBP) beginner bird banding class.  The IBP is a nonprofit corporation that studies the causes of bird population declines.  In addition to development of initiatives like Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship (MAPS), a collaborative network of independent banding stations across the U.S. and Canada, IBP also works to train future avian conservationists.  Their hands-on training courses teach skills such as operating mist-nets, bird-handling skills, bird aging and sexing techniques, and data recording using MAPS protocols and forms.  The week consisted of hands-on banding in the mornings followed by afternoon lectures and discussions about avian life histories, banding ethics, the bird banding permitting process, and the role of banding in research and monitoring.

Setting up the mist nets

Male Common Yellowthroat

For anyone unfamiliar with bird banding, it involves setting up mist-nets (finely woven large nets about 10 ft. tall strung between two poles about 25 ft. apart) and checking the nets at regular intervals for entangled birds.  During this class on Hurricane, participants set up the nets, opened them each morning at sunrise (~5:00am), and checked the nets every 40 minutes until around noon.  If entangled birds were found during net checks, they were safely extracted and brought to the lab for processing.  Back at the lab, each bird was identified by species, sexed, aged, weighed, its body condition was checked, and then a small metal band with an identifying number was placed on the bird’s leg.

Female Song Sparrow

The numbered band allows individual birds to be identified if they are recaptured.  For example, if an American Redstart banded on Hurricane is recaptured in Belize, the person who caught it in Belize will know that it migrated all the way from Maine, how old it was when it was first banded, and other important information about that individual bird.  Bird banding data is used for research and management projects across the globe because it allows people to track the migratory patterns, ranges, longevity, and behaviors of individual birds.

Each morning on Hurricane, the banders were up before the crack of dawn so that they were ready to open up the first nets just after sunrise, when birds are most active.  Some of the species banded on Hurricane this week include: Black-throated Green Warbler, American Redstart, Black-and-white Warbler, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Gray Catbird, Song Sparrow, American Robin, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Red-eyed Vireo, Northern Parula, Winter Wren, Cedar Waxwing, Common Yellowthroat, and more! 

Most mornings the banders caught and processed around 15 birds, however on their second to last day they caught 27 individuals! We had a great time hosting the IBP beginner bird banding class and hope to host more in the future! We are also looking forward to learning where the birds banded on Hurricane end up in the world.

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