Bird banding on Hurricane Island
A couple of weeks ago I was afforded the opportunity to attend a bird banding workshop on Hurricane Island off the coast of Maine. It was a seven-day workshop hosted by The Institute for Bird Populations, and taught the ins and outs of the MAPS (Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship) program. MAPS stations are set up throughout the U.S. and Canada during the summer breeding season in order to track (mostly) songbird populations, and reproduction rates among those populations.
During the workshop, we ran an abbreviated station on the island. Every morning at 5 a.m. we set up five to 10 mist nets in designated areas around the island. Nets were checked every 40 minutes, and any birds caught were extracted and their data was processed in our system. Every bird’s weight and wing measurements were taken, along with data about the bird’s age and reproductive status. Did you know you can tell how old a songbird is by the specific feathers it has molted?! After all data was collected, each bird was banded with a small aluminum band with a number on it. This number was unique to this individual, so it could be tracked if ever caught again (and we did catch quite a few already banded birds.) Each bird was in hand for an average of two to three minutes, and were released no worse for the wear! At the end of six hours, all nets are taken down for the day.
After lunch, it was classroom time! We learned the basics of running a station, bird safety techniques, banding ethics, and how to fill out data sheets, as well the life histories of the birds and their molt cycles. Each species nests at different times during the season, molts at different times, and even molts in different ways! Remembering all this would be impossible! Luckily we had a guide breaking down what to look for in each species, and a lot of our afternoons were spent learning how to interpret the guide. All in all it was an amazing experience, and I can’t wait to get out in the field and do it again. Hopefully, one day I will be able to help set up our own station here at the Zoo. Stay tuned!
Lead Keeper, Birds