Tom's Blog

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Bird banding at the Lakeshore Preserve

Today Kathie and I made a brief visit to the bird banding station near Picnic Point in UW-Madison's Lakeshore Nature Preserve. This fascinating program has been operating for several years now, and has brought in many visitors as well as volunteer bird banders. The person behind the program is Mara Macdonald, a licensed bird bander.

Banding of birds in the U.S. falls under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and requires a federal banding permit. Only official federal bands may be legally placed on birds that are released to the wild within the United States. Bird banding is the major research tool for the study of bird migration, and over the 100 years since bird banding began, millions of birds have been banded.

The bird banding station at the Preserve is near the UW Biocore Prairie. Thin mesh nets called mist nets are installed across various areas. Birds fly into the nets and are trapped. The bander gently removes the bird from the nest, places it temporarily in a paper bag, and brings it to the bird banding station. There data are recorded on the species, weight, size, color markings, and other characteristics. A tiny numbered band is fastened to a leg and the bird is then released. Banding has no effect on the behavior of the bird.

The data on each bird are transcribed on the computer and uploaded to the web site of the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center Bird Banding Laboratory of the USGS (Department of Interior). A large amount of important bird research has arisen from the federal bird banding program.

The bird banding station at Picnic Point is operated every Saturday morning from early spring until late fall. Visitors are welcome and are able to watch the bird banding work and obtain close views of a variety of bird species.


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