[Tweeters] Bird Banding - debate continues

Don Wallace don at picturebookpublishing.com
Fri Apr 6 18:19:51 PDT 2012

Here is a quote from a website.

I have always thought is odd that biologists have been and are given a free pass. Years ago I met--at Jamaica Bay WR, Queens, NY-- John G. Williams, curator or ornithology at the British Museum in Nairobi, and author or co-author of "The Birds of East Africa." Anyway, he shared the following with me: "I have skinned thousands of birds caught in mist nets. Every single one of them, from tiny passerines to large raptors, had bruises on their breasts that matched the pattern of the net that they struck at high speed." A small percentage of birds caught in mist nets die upon impact and still others perish or are injured while being removed or afterwards.

At Cape May NJ, the folks who band raptors stick the birds in various cans using tennis ball cans for birds like Cooper's Hawk. Well, one young intern was doing a program at the state park, grabbed a Coop in a can, took it out, and was dismayed to find that it was dead. He composed himself, grabbed another tennis ball can, took out another dead Coop, and ran away crying.

Most folks who see a lot of shorebirds wind up seeing a few banded birds, especially Red Knots. And there are lots of banded gulls and terns out there too. Back to the shorebirds. I have seen Sanderling limping in obvious discomfort, constantly picking at their bands with their bills. Reports of banded birds in distress are as common as hen's teeth.

At Bonaventure, the biologists have a neat way of capturing the gannets while they are incubating. They have a wire noose on the end of a long pole. They maneuver the noose around the neck of the gannet and then yank the bird onto the viewing deck. Nice work, but not if you are a gannet.

And if you want to see disturbance, visit a colony or rookery being studied by scientists. Watch the birds fly off in a constant panic as researchers walk through the colonies, weighing eggs, grabbing chicks, trapping adults, weighing, measuring and marking every thing in sight. And the main purpose of all of this mist netting, banding, trapping, and disturbance? In many cases the driving force is getting ones name on a research paper, published article, or thesis.

I am not alone in believing netting and banding should be stopped. When banders say they are caring, are the telling themselves that the bruises and trauma will heal so it is okay to put birds in that kind of situation? There are many ways to get around banding, technology is amazing.

Here is another link for you, warning the pictures are pretty graphic.


How about one for the penguins


This one seems to think it is a sport to band.


Another quote:
From retired veterinarian Linda Ruth.
2. Being captured and handled is very stressful for the birds. During breeding season, they are already stressed by the demands of parenthood. Additional stress may reduce their ability to care for their offspring, or even threaten their lives. In a typical banding program, nets are checked every 30 minutes. If a bird is incubating eggs or feeding young, a long absence could kill their offspring. Any bird that appears excessively stressed, or is known to be incubating eggs or is newly fledged, is either banded and released before any of the others, or, in severe cases, released without banding. You can't just put out a trap and forget about it. In addition it is easy for people without extensive experience in handling birds to miss the subtle signs of excessive stress and handle a bird that should have been released immediately.

3. Although it is very rare when trained banders handle birds, birds are sometimes physically injured by the capture and handling process. The mist nets commonly used to capture birds are very expensive, and must be set up properly to successfully catch and safely hold birds until they can be released. Removing birds from the net without injuring them is an art requiring a lot of practice. The longer it takes you to get them out, the more stressed the bird becomes. Some birds become so entangled in the net that they injure themselves. A sudden unexpected shower may cause a trapped bird to become chilled. Predators such as red squirrels, rats and weasels sometimes kill netted birds. In their frenzied efforts to escape, birds captured in solid traps may incur serious injury batting their heads and wings against the sides. Holding onto a struggling (and sometimes biting) bird is a lot harder than it looks, especially when you are holding on with one hand and trying to apply a band with the other. It is all too easy for an inexperienced handler to suffocate a bird, or break its delicate legs or wings. Birds can even bleed to death from a broken "blood feather." In the grand scheme of things, much useful information is gained from the birds from physical measurements, recovery data, cloacal swabs, and feather samples and ticks that may be collected from each bird. This includes information about West Nile Virus, tick-borne diseases, avian influenza, and genetics,.

4. Properly sized and applied bands do not harm birds. However, the band must be exactly the right size for the individual bird. Bands that are too small will chafe, eventually causing open sores and infection. Bands that are too loose can become entangled in vegetation or nest material, resulting in death by starvation. Banders have a large variety of band sizes at their disposal. Banding manuals list a recommended size for each species. However, if a bird's leg appears unusually large or small for its species, the leg is measured using a special device, and an appropriately sized band applied. Special tools are used to open and close the bands to assure that the edges do not overlap, or leave a large gap that can cause entanglement. These bands are only sold to banders with permits. Commercially available bands only come in a few sizes and are inappropriate for use in wild birds.

5. Birds have excellent color vision, and application of colored bands can have unintended consequences. Investigators studying mating behavior in captive Zebra finches were surprised to discover that band color significantly affected the birds' behavior. Apparently, potential mates found some leg adornments attractive and others repulsive. Birds wearing "attractive" bands had more offspring, and lived longer than birds wearing "unattractive" bands. Color banding also greatly increased infidelity. The rate of extra pair fertilization in natural populations of zebra finches is less than 5%, in color-banded populations, over 25%. Clearly, color banding is not an innocuous procedure.
To read more, see: Zebra Finches - Natural History and Sexual Dimorphism, Mate Choice and Its Consequences, Parental Care and Parent–Offspring Relationships, Ploceidae

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