Willistown Conservation Trust in Pennsylvania carries out bird banding to help researchers understand bird populations. Led by licensed bird banders, a team of volunteers catches birds using mist nets — 8-foot tall nets made of fine nylon string that practically disappear when strung out between poles. After carefully untangling birds from the net, volunteers weigh and measure the birds, affixing a small metal band to their legs with a unique ID. Compiling records for many banded birds helps keep track of whole species.
Written by Allison Wilson
This is BirdNote.
[Field recording from bird banding station]
During fall migration, this bird banding station, operated by the Willistown Conservation Trust, is in full swing. It’s late September at the Rushton Woods Preserve on the outskirts of Philadelphia.
[Forest ambient sound]
Led by licensed bird banders, a team of volunteers catches birds using mist nets — 8-foot tall nets made of fine nylon string that practically disappear when strung out between poles. There are fifteen set up around this nature preserve today in wooded areas and along trails.
This volunteer is gently untangling a Gray Catbird from the mist net.
[Volunteer untangling bird from net]
Each bird is put in a cloth bag and carried to the banding station, a small covered wooden platform. There, a bird bander affixes a small metal band around its leg. The team measures different aspects of the bird:
Banding participant: Age, sex if we can, the fat accumulation, the bird’s weight, 40.9 grams for that bird…
When this catbird is spotted in the wild, or caught again at a banding station, it gives researchers insight into the movements and lifespan of this individual. Compiling records for many banded catbirds helps keep track of the whole species.
Newer technologies like GPS trackers make it easier to precisely track birds around the world, but for a bird-lover, banding offers a unique thrill: holding a wild bird like this Veery in your hand, then feeling the beats of its wings while it flutters away, all while contributing to community science.
Banding participant: There it goes! Did you hear it? It went “veer!”
For BirdNote, I’m Allison Wilson.
Senior Producer: John Kessler
Content Director: Allison Wilson
Producer: Mark Bramhill
Managing Producer: Conor Gearin
Field recordings by Allison Wilson
Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York.
BirdNote’s theme was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
© 2022 BirdNote September 2022
Narrator: Allison Wilson
ID# banding-05-2022-09-01 banding-05