Spring Bird Banding at Prince Edward Point, Ontario
 
The bander has an assistant called a scribe who records all of the data that he describes from the examination of each bird. He first bands them with a special size band for each type of bird. Some bird species, like the Blue Jay, may need two different size bands, so he checks their leg size with a special measuring tool, called a Leg Gauge, then fits a band that will move freely between the bird's knee and ankle.  
Nashville Warbler
 
Next, he checks the bird's fatness by blowing the breast feathers aside to see the color of the skin below the throat. The yellow colouration of the fat is greatly contrasted against the dark purple colour of the breast muscle. The amount of the cavity that is filled with fat is graded with a 0, 1, 2 or 3 with 3 being full of fat.
 
This tells Brian how long they've been there feeding. The "no" fat birds are the ones that have just arrived from their long migratory journey or could be residential birds. The higher fat birds are the ones that have been fueling up for a few days and are about ready to continue their journey north.  
 
He then tilts the bird to the side again, and nudges the right wing out slightly to measure it. In a few bird species, such as with the white-throated sparrow, he may be able to determine their sex by the length of their wing.
 
He fans out the wing, checking the shape of the tips of the wings and the coloring, which can tell him the age of the bird.

While still holding it with the left hand, he slides the legs between his index and middle finger, then uses his thumb to press the feet up to his two fingers to lock the legs and feet in place.

 
White-crowned Sparrow
 
He then props the bird up to have a good look at his whole body from an upright position.

Now he can look for special markings, the overall health of the bird and to just splendor in its beauty. This is also a great time to give his audience a better look at each bird.

 
American Gold Finch
 
A bird named Fred is a good example of just how gentle and efficient the banders and their process are.

He is a Brown-headed Cowbird and has been trapped and brought in for banding about 50 to 60 times over the last 6 years. He was first banded by the PEPtBO in 1996. Brian has gotten to know Fred very well over the years. Once a day they will measure him and weigh him but any more than once a day and they just let him back out the door.

 
Fred, the bird band-it
 
To Fred, the free seeds in the ground trap seem to be well worth the ordeal of being handled by the banders. Fred is not the only one. There is another Cowbird named Ethel who lives for the spring banding, free seed cycle.

Now for the strange part! The bird is in a position at this point to be weighed. He gently places the bird, head first into a "can" (a pill bottle of varying sizes, weighted to 10 grams).

 
 
The canning of the bird allows the assistant to weigh the bird while his wings are held by his side, firm enough that he can't flutter and hurt himself or get away. Weighing a wild bird would be an incredible task without this ingenious method (I dare you to think of any other way to weigh a bird!). However ingenious, though, it looks very odd.  
 
Spring Bird Banding Continued / Page #3
 
 

 

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