Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Importance of Bird Banding

A few months ago I started a little volunteer gig to learn how to bird band with the great folks at the Tommy Thompson Park Bird Banding Station.  We saw so many different birds here and it was not only an amazing learning experience for myself, but also for the public who often stopped in to the station and see what was up. 

In a previous post I mentioned that many people question the work that bird banding does, saying that it is an unnecessary way to gather information on our feather friends.  "Can't you just look at them?  Can't you just count their numbers from the roads or some other way?  Isn't there another way to gather this information without catching the birds and handling them causing stress?" Although banding does impose some stress on birds, the short answer is No.  The information gathered is vital to understanding their life history, threats, health, migration, and basically every aspect about them!
Banding sheet in public display about retrapped birds

I received an email from our Head Bander a while ago and wanted to share the information in it with everyone, it was amazing! I truly shows the importance of banding and the information that we are able to collect from this. The information was specific to Owls that had been banded, but the same information and importance can be crossed to any bird group!

  • On the 10th of Feb 1996 a Great Grey Owl was banded as an "After Second Year" bird in Alberta. On March 16th 2013 that owl was hit by a car.  Since it was banded, this code was entered into the database it was discovered that it was approx. 18 years and 9 months at the time it was killed. 
  • A female "After Hatch Year" Snowy owl banded on Jan 17th 1994, also in Alberta she was retrapped and released alive on the 23rd of Feb 2013.  That means she was 19yrs 7mths and still going!
  • A Barred owl, banded as a local in the nest, on the 24th of May 1986 was found dead, tangled in fishing line June 9th, 2010! This means that the Owl was 24 yrs old and did not die of natural causes! 
WOW Right!  The age these birds were found to be is outstanding. It means they were able to survive yearly elements, raise young, and found enough food to survive every year...amazing!  Without having been banded, we would have never been able to come across this information and much about bird life history and current threats would be still left unknown. 

TTP Banding Lab