Archives for 2018

The Life of Bird Banders

The bird bander’s day starts at 6:00am. They wake up to birdsong, and drink something caffeinated to kickstart their day. They make sure the banding equipment is clean, and ready for the day ahead. They also check the weather. If it is rainy or windy, she will not be able to open the nets. If it is rainy, the birds get wet and they can die of hypothermia. If it is too windy, the birds can be injured in the nets. At 7:00am precisely, they head out to the net lanes and open the 13 mist nets. After that they check the nets every half an hour. How many birds they catch will depend on a number of factors. If it is calm or if the wind is going the right direction, birds will migrate through. If there was a full moon last night, birds will keep on flying. Typically migrating birds will fly at night, and stop to forage during the day. The brighter it is at night, the more birds that will keep flying. Spring migration also tends to be quieter compared to the fall. Many birds caught at the Last Mountain Bird Observatory nest in the boreal forest. They rush up there in the spring to set up breeding territories so that they can start nesting as soon as possible. This spring there has only been one day where the banders caught over 100 birds. When the banders catch a bird they take it back to the station. They put a band on it, and collect some data on the bird. The bander will determine the age and sex of the bird, measure the wing, and weigh the bird. This data can be used to estimate population trends which can be used by conservationists to determine whether a bird species is increasing or declining. At 9:00am, the banders conduct a census. This means they walk along a designated route and count the birds they see. They continue to check the nets until 1:00pm. At that time, they close the nets. That is a basic day of one of the banders at Last Mountain Bird Observatory.

Of course, a day as a bander can be a lot more variable than I have described above. But it should give you a basic idea of what we do. We have had a typically quiet spring at the banding station. We have been catching mostly White-throated Sparrows, but we have also been catching lots of American Robins, and Tree Swallows. We have also been catching a variety of sparrows, thrushes, and warblers. We have not had any birds that are rare or uncommon yet this year. Stay tuned for more updates during the summer!

Jordan Rustad


Photo credit: D. Bonnet


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