Fall is an exciting and busy time for our avian researchers at Powdermill Nature Reserve, Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s environmental research center in Rector Pennsylvania.
As birds migrate south, thousands fly through Powdermill, where they are identified, banded, and studied before they continue their long journey to their winter nesting grounds.
Researchers band anything from worm-eating Warblers to brightly colored purple finches in their nets each year.
This fall alone, more than 4,000 birds representing 150+ species have been studied and banded since September. Researchers catch the birds in specially designed mist nets that are cast each morning before dawn. Caught birds are carefully transported to a banding station, where they are identified, measured, and given a small band issued through the US Geological Survey. Bands provide information for other researchers and don’t affect the birds flight, nesting, or eating habits.
Above all else, the well being of every bird is Powdermill’s top priority at all times. The entire banding process takes less than a minute, and the vast majority of birds are actually quite calm during their short visit at the banding station.
But why band birds at all?
The fundamental goal of bird banding has always been to record the age, sex, wing length, fat deposits, and body mass of captured species as a way of monitoring, year to year, how avian populations are faring in the wild.
Banding gives us insight into many things like the life cycles and longevity of birds, habitat use, and how disease and environmental toxins are affecting wild bird populations.