Bird Banding and Stream Study- Part 1


Today was a “typical” Friday.

We spent the day banding birds and checking the pollution levels in our local streams…

you know, the usual stuff. ūüôā

Actually it was “Field Trip Friday!” and we spent our last field trip of the year visiting Powdermill Nature Reserve. It was one of the best outings we have ever been on!

IMG_3238 (2)

This was our first time visiting Powdermill Nature Reserve, but when I read about the details of the outing on Molly’s school’s website I knew it would be a big hit with the kids, especially Rusty (my science lover). The outing was¬†almost¬† 2 hours away, but the drive was beautiful.

We arrived at 9:00 am. The outing was split into two parts: Bird banding in the morning and Stream study in the afternoon, with lunch in between. To get to the Avian Research Center we took a 10 minute hike through the woods.


When we arrived we were greeted outside by one of the specialist who was holding two bags. Out of the bags he pulled two birds that had been caught, banded, and were ready for release.

IMG_3283 (2)

We then walked over to the edge of the field where he showed us how they catch the birds for banding. He unrolled the “mist net”, a very finely woven net that catches the birds as they fly into it, and then¬†traps them in net “pockets.” The netting is so fine that the birds often don’t see it. He explained that it works best on overcast days when the sun isn’t reflecting off it, with their busiest days occurring during migration. He explained how effective these nets were, as well as being safe for the birds. They have 65 of these nets on site and on their busiest day caught and banded 604 birds.

IMG_3361 (2)

He then took us into his lab where the research takes place. We all crowded in and watched as he walked us through the steps that follow a capture. He had three birds on hand that they had just caught.

The first bird he pulled out of the bag was a hummingbird. It was tiny, weighing only as much as a penny. He said that they are among the toughest to band due to their small size.

IMG_3343 (2)

He showed us the different band sizes they use, depending on the type of bird it is. Look at the size difference between the band used on a hummingbird and a band used on an eagle:

The tiny humming bird bands are stored on a safety pin.

The tiny humming bird bands are stored on a safety pin.

After recording the birds data and banding it, he opened the window and the hummingbird flew away.

The next bird he pulled out of a bag was a male Flicker.

IMG_3298 (2)

First he checked the feathers to determine the age of the bird and then measured its wing length.

IMG_3314 (2)

He then determined the percentage of fat on the bird by examining the fat pocket at the base of the throat.

IMG_3316 (2)

Then he weighed the bird by placing it head down in a cone that rested on a digital scale.

IMG_3325 (2)After recording all the data in a national database, he banded the bird and it was sent to another researcher for a project they are working on.

The final bird he banded was a Gray Catbird. He said that this was the most common bird they caught.

IMG_3349 (2)

Here, at this site, they band on average 10,000 birds per year with a recapture rate of 4,000 birds per year.

The next stop at the Avian Research Center was the glass testing tunnel. We were turned over to another researcher who explained to us the research they were doing.

She told us that they second most common cause of death for birds worldwide was collisions with glass, causing 599 million deaths a year.(The number one cause is ferel cats) She said each home was the cause of 2 bird deaths a year on average. She explained that what they were studying there at the research station was how the use of UV coatings on the glass prevented birds from colliding with windows.

IMG_3366 (2)

After many of the caught birds receive their bands they are then taken over to the flying tunnel where they take part in the study that is being done.

At the end of the tunnel there are two panes of glass: one standard and one with a UV coating. The birds are released into the other end of the tunnel and are recorded to see which pane of glass they fly toward. At the end of the tunnel, before they reach the glass, they are caught in a net to prevent harm to the bird. This is the final stop before they are released back into the wild.

Gracie was especially fascinated with this research since she wrote a paper on this very thing earlier in the year.

After we were done we walked back through the woods to the Nature Reserve Center. It was time for lunch! We had a 30 minute break before part 2 of the tour began. We enjoyed our packed lunch on the back deck and then walked around the exhibits inside while we waited to go down to the creek.

On the wall was a fun game called:

“What Bird Are You?”IMG_3250 (2)By following a flow chart of questions¬†you could¬†find out what kind of bird you would be. It was funny to read the determining questions and see what the kids picked for their answers.

So just in case you are curious as to what my children would look like if they had feathers and wings,

here are the results of our little quiz…

Grace would be a Swallow:

white_throated_sparrow 1

IMG_3236 (2)

Molly would be a Puffin:

IMG_3235 (2)puffin

Rusty would be a Duck:

IMG_3230 (2)duck

Tyler would be an Ibis:

IMG_3229 (2)ibis

 and Ozzie would be a Kiwi:

IMG_3232 (2)kiwi

Part 2: Stream Study!

One response »

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s