Bird Banding at Powdermill Avian Research Center (PARC)
Banding Summaries Online
The Powdermill Avian Research Center (PARC) is leading the field in its
development 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.
PARC’s banding station is situated in a 10 hectare area of old fields,
hedgerows, and marshy ponds, along with alder and willow-lined streams.
The program area is bounded by an extensive mixed deciduous forest along
Laurel Ridge to the east and by low intensity agricultural areas in the
Ligonier Valley to the west.
Station researchers use up to 70 12-meter long, 2.5 meter high mist nets
placed singly or in series of up to eight connected nets in hedgerow gaps
and along habitat edges, mostly where adjacent vegetation is not much higher
than the nets themselves. The locations for the mists nets have changed
little over the course of 45 years.
To maintain the efficiency of the net locations for catching birds,
habitat management is performed to remove tall woody vegetation from the
vicinity of net lanes. Efforts to clear overgrown brush away from the pond
banks and stream edges has opened up the wetland areas for more aerial
foraging songbirds and to attract more wading birds.
Bird Banding Protocol
Above all else, the well being of every bird is our top priority at all
April through November, mist nets are opened before dawn each banding
day. During winter months, banding operations are scaled back and
plastic coated wire Potter traps baited with seed are used.
From the first deployment of the mist nets, about a half hour before
sunrise, to the close of the banding day, nets are checked every 30 to 40
minutes as conditions allow. The nets themselves are designed for the
safe capture of birds, large and small, and each bird is placed in a small
drawstring bag for its trip to the banding station.
Once in the lab, birds are identified to species, banded (or reprocessed if
they had been banded previously), and information about their age, sex, wing
length, fat deposits, and body mass is recorded.
The band itself is a small information bracelet issued through the US
Geological Survey. It causes no physical harm to the bird, nor does it
impair flight, feeding, or any bird behavior.
The whole process of collecting data for each captured bird takes less than
a minute, after which the bird is promptly released through a small sliding
door in the window next to the banding desk.
While banding, weighing, and examining the birds may add a little stress to
their day, no injuries are caused, and remember: many are migrating birds
that will have traveled thousands of miles, faced enormous challenges, and
have thousands of miles yet to go. The vast majority are actually
quite calm during their short visit at the banding station.
Benefits of Bird Banding
The fundamental goal of bird banding has always been to record the age,
sex, wing length, fat deposits, and body mass of captured species as a way
of monitoring, year to year, how avian populations are faring in the wild.
But bird banding research has many possible uses, including:
- Behavioral and Migratory Research
- Longevity and Life Cycles
- Prebasic Molt in Birds
- Weight and Plumage Changes
- Population Monitoring
- Habitat Use
- Disease and Environmental Toxins
Ultimately, bird banding also helps us understand how to conserve the
land and environments in which these migrating species live and breed.
Since it began full-time operation in 1962, PARC’s bird banding program
has generated records at a rate of nearly 13,000 birds per year, with
recaptures making up 20 percent, on average, of the annual total. By
the end of 2005, the program's database included records from just under
460,000 original bandings and over 110,000 recaptures, representing 190
PARC banding records are submitted regularly to the
Bird Banding Laboratory, which
maintains the bird-banding database for all of North America.
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