Why Band Birds and How to Get Involved
Data from bird banding are useful for many aspects of avian management and conservation. Here is a partial list of some of the information gathered by marking individual birds.
Dispersal and Migration
When banded birds are found away from where they were banded we can reconstruct the movements of individual birds and learn their migratory routes or nesting or breeding grounds.
Behavior and Social Structure
A color banded bird can be recognized without capturing the bird again. This can allow study of such things as mate fidelity, which bird in a pair builds a nest and feeds the young and other social behaviors.
Determining Life Span
Marking an individual bird allows researchers to know the length of time a bird can live. It turns out that many species of wild birds can live 10 to 20 years (through these are exceptional individuals, not the average).
Populations, Survival and Productivity
Mark-recapture techniques allow researchers to estimate the total number of birds in a population. Constant effort banding stations provide estimates of where the limiting factor is in a species life cycle.
Game Bird Data
Hunting regulations are informed by data from prior years’ hunts. Banding data helps assess how various age and sex classes are reacting to hunting pressure.
If all this sounds like something you’d like to get involved in you’ll first need to find a nearby banding station. You can consult the following list: http://www.nmnh.si.edu/BIRDNET/ornith/observatory.html. Being trained as a bander or banding assistant is a long process that can take years, depending on the level of independence you're seeking. A trainee more or less becomes an apprentice to the bander and over many visits learns how to record data and handle birds before then moving on to extracting birds from nets and/or traps, applying the bands and determing age and sex of the birds.
It is important to realize that not everyone has the necessary skills, dexterity and the good eyesight needed to become a bander. These people can help out at a station in other capacities such as being a scribe, an extractor of birds from the nets or by helping to carry the birds back to the station from the nets.