Learning more about bird banding
Last year about this time I told you about the banding workshop I was able to attend on Hurricane Island off the coast of Maine. Last week I was able to attend the advanced portion of the workshop, this time at the Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center in northern Minnesota. The workshops are hosted by The Institute for Bird Populations and teach the protocols of the MAPS (Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship) program. MAPS stations are found throughout the US and Canada during the summer breeding season in order to track (mostly) songbird populations, and reproduction rates among those populations.
Wolf Ridge has a permanent MAPS station set up on grounds that runs once every 10 days. For the week of the workshop, we ran the station every morning. Starting at 5:00 we set up between 10 and 15 nests around a designated loop. Nets were checked every 40 minutes, and any birds caught were extracted and processed. Every bird received a band with a unique nine-digit number identifier. Weights and wing measurements were also taken, along with data about the birds age and reproductive status. Nets are open until about 11:00, when they are closed for the day.
After lunch, it was onto the classroom, and it was all about feathers! We spent hours learning the differences between juvenile and adult feathers, and how to recognize them on the bird. It is because of these differences that we are able to age the birds we catch, at least through their first three years of life, and in some case into their fourth year! This is valuable information when we are studying populations of wild birds, so as intense of an experience as it was, it was an awesome experience, and I learned so much! I can’t wait to get in the field and try out my new knowledge! Hopefully, one day I will be able to start a MAPS station here and Zoo Atlanta, and you can come see this process in action!
Lead Keeper, Birds