Monday, May 31, 2010

Eastern Bluebirds and Reporting Bands

Last week, J. H. and I finally braved the heat to band fledgling Eastern Bluebirds.  Unfortunately two of three boxes were already empty.  This fledgling was one of five young in the remaining box.

Bird longevity is short--a bird's average life span is less than two years (although wild birds are known to survive 10-20 years).  Furthermore, unlike most other vertebrates, a bird's survival rate does not seem to improve with age.  Birds are not skilled analytical thinkers--after all, they can fly away from most of their problems.  (This is not to say that birds do not learn at all; they just are not superior learners.)  The moral?  When you get to the reincarnation center, think twice about joining the bird line!

Less than 1% of banded songbirds are recovered. Since the 1960s, in both Europe and North America, band reporting rates have declined.  Robert A. Robinson, Mark J. Grantham and Jacquie A. Clark wrote a paper entitled "Declining rates of ring recovery in British birds" (2009 British Trust for Ornithology, Ringing and Migration 24:266–272). They suggest people spend less time outdoors and therefore find fewer dead birds and, when they do find bands, they do not know where to send the information.  I think Americans these days may be less likely, for whatever reasons, to cooperative with the Federal government. 

To counteract this trend, the US Banding Lab allows people to report bands electronically at http://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/bbl/homepage/call800.htmhttp://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/bbl/homepage/call800.htm and also by toll free phone: 1-800-327-BAND (2263).  Many of the larger bands now bear this telephone number.

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