Ep. 40 - Put a Ring On It, Part 1 - All About Bird Banding

A bird alights on a nearby branch, and, for a brief moment, a flash of silver on the bird’s leg catches your eye. If you’re fortunate enough to get a closer look, you might notice that the reflection comes from a tiny, silver bracelet wrapped around the bird’s leg – a bird band.

Bird banding (or bird ringing, for our European listeners) has been used for over a century to better understand the life histories of our avian neighbors. But that’s just one of many reasons why bird banding has been so valuable to researchers. In this episode, Bill and Steve delve into the details of what banding is all about. Part one covers the history and basics of how bird banding works, and part two provides an overview of research that looks into how harmful bird banding might be to the birds involved.

This episode was recorded on July 14, 2019 at the Reinstein Woods Nature Preserve in Cheektowaga, New York. Reinstein Woods is operated by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.     

Episode Notes:

During the episode, Bill refers to “Gray jays” (Perisoreus canadensis) in Algonquin Provincial Park and the color bands that are used to study them. Bill forgot that Canada has “asked” that the world now refer to them as Canada Jays..

Bill also mentioned the Indian peafowl (Pavo cristatus), and Steve wondered if that was the same thing as a peacock. He was right, a “peacock” is the male peafowl, and a female is a “peahen”.


Birds on the Niagara Frontier - The “October” clip features Bill giving an overview of bird banding.

Check out the Rostocker Pfeilstorch - the white stork that was found in the 1800s that helped Europeans to understand bird migration

If you find a banded bird, report it here!

The Institute for Bird Populations - One of the leading organizations conducting and collecting banding-focused research at sites across the globe. Their site has great info about banding, in general, as well as links to training sessions that they offer.

The North American Banding Council - The mission of the NABC is to promote sound and ethical bird-banding practices and techniques. To accomplish this, the NABC has developed educational and training materials for bird banders, including manuals on general banding techniques as well as techniques manuals for specialized taxonomic groups.

The Federal Government’s Bird Banding Lab, operated by the US Geological Survey. This is the Lab that issues federal bird banding permits within the USA and collects data from licensed banders.

Sponsorship of this episode provided by Gumleaf Boots, USA
Free shipping offer code for Patreon supporters: TFG2019

The Field Guides Patreon

As always, check out Always Wandering Art (Website and Etsy Shop), who usually provides the artwork for our episodes!

Works Cited:

Griesser, M., Schneider, N.A., Collis, M.A., Overs, A., Guppy, M., Guppy, S., Takeuchi, N., Collins, P., Peters, A. and Hall, M.L., 2012. Causes of ring-related leg injuries in birds–evidence and recommendations from four field studies. PloS one, 7(12), p.e51891.

Haché, S., Bertrand, P., Fiola, M.L., Thériault, S., Bayne, E.M. and Villard, M.A., 2016. Band-related foot loss does not prevent successful return and reproduction in the ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapilla). The Wilson Journal of Ornithology, 128(4), pp.913-918.

Sedgwick, J.A. and Klus, R.J., 1997. Injury Due to Leg Bands in Willow Flycatchers (Heridas Producidas en las Patas por Anillas en Individuos de Empidonax traillii). Journal of Field Ornithology, pp.622-629.

Splittgerber, K. and Clarke, M.F., 2006. Band‐related leg injuries in an Australian passerine and their possible causes. Journal of Field Ornithology, 77(2), pp.195-206.

Spotswood, E.N., Goodman, K.R., Carlisle, J., Cormier, R.L., Humple, D.L., Rousseau, J., Guers, S.L. and Barton, G.G., 2012. How safe is mist netting? Evaluating the risk of injury and mortality to birds. Methods in ecology and evolution, 3(1), pp.29-38.

Viegas, J. (2004, June 8) Banding kills birds it's supposed to tag. Retrieved from:  https://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2004/06/08/1127115.htm