Friday, October 22, 2010

Banded Birds

During the past year I observed several banded birds in the wild.  This banded Snowy Plover was among a dozen on the beach at Sanibel Island, Florida, last January.  All sported a different combination of color bands. I also came upon this banded first-year Great Black-backed Gull.
I took photos of the front and the back of the band, hoping to decipher the number. I then conitnued to walk down the beach.  On the way back, I came upon the gull again and took more photos.
I was disappointed that the front and back of the band photos do not reveal enough of the band to know the complete number.
Today I enlarged the photo of the photo I took upon our return hike (the first photograph on this post).  To my amazement, this is a completely different band from the first!  The band is far more worn, with almost eligible writing on the top and the bottom.  It is the same dead fish, but a different first-year Great Black-backed Gull feasted on it! Most gulls are banded as chicks; the closest breeding areas to Florida for Great Black-backs is the New Jersey coast.
Last May I blogged "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."

A colleague added, " I think another factor that might be involved is that the BBL [Bird Banding Lab] is not issuing permits to recreational banders anymore, and is requiring additional work/justification for renewals of current permits. Thus, I suspect that fewer total birds are being banded than previously, and that this likely contributes to fewer reported returns too."

Finally, another potential problem, for whatever reasons, is the length of time the BBL can take when responding to recovery reports.  Almost a year has passed without a reply from them on the color-banded plovers and over a year without a report on the banded oystercatcher I blogged about in October 2009.  Perhaps the Banding Office will be better able to promptly respond once they update their database, a project they are currently pursuing.

The BBL allows people to report bands electronically at and also by toll free phone: 1-800-327-BAND (2263).

1 comment:

  1. Interesting - I'm also mindful of banded birds passing through. I was able to read a CAGO band a few weeks ago. I was promptly informed that the bird had been banded as a gosling in July in the Hudson Bay lowlands, 750 km north of here. More here: