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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Bird Banding

I visited Seward Park today and observed a bird banding. Volunteers from the Puget Sound Bird Observatory http://www.pugetsoundbirds.org/PSBO/index.php?pg=home had their nets set up behind the Seward Park Audubon center.

Seward Park, with its historic buildings and wonderful old growth trees, is one of the most beautiful parks in the city. The Audubon Center is a relatively new and wonderful addition. The old Seward Park Inn serves as an education center and there is a very active calender of events for all ages that take place. http://sewardpark.audubon.org/

Today there were people busy at the arts center, many Lymphoma Society "Team in Training" participants and runners and bikers all over. Up in the park there was a group having "pet detective" training. I enjoyed a walk around the trails and noted happily that Indian Plum is starting to bust out the green.

This park is filled with wonderful old trees, larger that you typically see in our city parks

There are also a lot of artistic touches.

And some non-native landscaping.

The south shoreline looking over to Mercer Island. A gray still day, an old familiar place.

The fine nets were set up with a bird feeder behind them. You could hear chickadees all over the place. One of the volunteers reported that he observed birds coming in and either sitting on top of the net or hopping past it on the underside. Obviously they were catching on to its presence. It is hard to photograph the nets because they are such fine mesh.

When a bird is caught they are carefully transferred to a cloth bag and brought to the table. The bird is extracted and tagged with a federal bird observatory band. This tag id is kept in a North American data base to track bird populations and movements.

The birds being netted today are part of a study on birds in urban settings. Each bird gets a unique set of colored leg bands.

The position and combination of colors allows each bird to be identifiable without capture. Persons living near parks can observe and record birds at their feeders. The goal of the study is to gain understanding on how birds use large parks and urban neighborhoods. Birds will be tracked within the park for nesting and flock data.

Obvious measurements are made; weight and wing length, age and body condition. More challenging data is gathered as well. Minute detail of feather molt and wear are recorded. The skull of birds go through structure changes as they age from hatchling to adult. These are observable through the skin. The book "Identification Guide of North American Birds " by Pyle catalogs these details. As you can see from this photo, the minutiae is staggering.

I enjoyed watching the students working today. Most were high school age and had their training this summer in a week long camp over in the Wenas Creek (Ellensburg / Yakima) area. I was struck by their gentle and adept fingers as well as their ability to read the leg bands without the aid of glasses, magnifiers or other familiar aids. I am sure that would be my downfall. I did note how one young man was a bit reluctant to take on a pecking chickadee and had his friend do the duties.

Such Fury!!!


  1. How do you find all of these wonderful places to visit? I would love to go see something like that around my neck of the woods.

  2. I found this particular event through the local Audubon chapter newsletter.

    You may wish to check out your local Audubon chapter and your state Audubon office. Your state may have a nature education / conservation office.

    The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is more a national presence but they might have leads on local events. You might also have a State Ornithology Society with an active Bulletin board.

    There are bird banding stations all over North America. Many are centered in and around state and national parks. You might find events at local natural areas, wildlife refuges and regional parks.

    Seattle is lucky to have a newspaper that has strongly supported the outdoor lifestyle and nature appreciation. They regularly have listings on Thursday on weekend events of all types.

    There are many bird banders who operate "privately". You may do some Google magic and find them locally.