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History of PARC

History of Powdermill Avian Research Center (PARC)

Established in 1956

Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s biological research station Powdermill Nature Reserve is one of the four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh.  Powdermill Avian Research Center (PARC) is the bird banding and avian research facility at the museum’s research station.

Established in 1956, the station owes its existence to the vision and leadership of then museum director, Dr. M. Graham Netting. 

Located in the Laurel Highlands of southwestern Pennsylvania, the nature reserve today covers nearly 2,200 acres and features an extensive, mature second growth forest with some early and late successional old fields. Other characteristics include a variety of streams along with a few small ponds and wetlands. 

In 1961, Robert C. Leberman established the landbird banding program at Powdermill, what would become PARC.  Robert semi-retired in 2004 after 43 years as the program’s Senior Bird Bander.  Bob Mulvihill, PARC’s current Field Ornithology Projects Coordinator first joined the program in 1978 as a volunteer college student.  Hired full-time in 1983, Bob took over as Bander-in-Charge in 2004.

PARC’s bird banding program may be the longest running, year-round, professional bird banding operation in the country.  In the summer of 2001, we recorded our 500,000th bird (including original bandings plus recaptures).

The Growth of Research

Over the years, PARC has made significant strides in expanding its research capabilities, capitalizing on the experience and expertise of its world renowned bird banding program.

Birds studied through our banding program may also be utilized for bioacoustical, window avoidance, telemetry studies and more, all while handling these species in a gentle and humane manner.  In this way PARC contributes both to our knowledge of migrating species and to their enhanced survival as well.  Visit our PARC Research page for more information.

With its website revision in 2010, PARC also introduced the use of a dynamic computer database of bird banding records.  At the banding station, data from bird captures is entered directly into the database. This data is then automatically processed and displayed in summary form on this website at the close of each banding day.
Visit our Banding Summaries page to learn more.  Researchers interested in fuller access to banding data should Contact PARC for more information.

Powdermill Nature Reserve

Located in Rector, Westmoreland County Powdermill was established in 1956 and is Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s biological research station and nature education center.  Powdermill sustains and protects a variety of natural habitats where researchers and educators study ecological processes.  It is also home to one of the longest continually running avian research stations in the United States. Visitors of all ages come to gain a greater knowledge about the natural world through innovative and exciting education programs and exhibitions. 

For visiting hours and directions to Powdermill Nature Reserve and PARC, please visit the Powdermill Web site at


Carnegie Museum of Natural History
4400 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
One of the four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh
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