Day 5: Five Gold Rings!
Bird banding (or ringing) has been an important tool in monitoring wild bird populations for over a century (with reports of the practice as early as four centuries ago). Environment and Climate Change Canada works with the United States Geological Survey (USGS) to jointly administer the North American Bird Banding Program.
Birds are captured using a variety of trapping techniques, after which a uniquely numbered, usually metal, band is placed on an individual’s leg. When the bird is recovered or sighted, the number is reported and information about the bird is collected. Banding can provide information on migration routes and distances, life span, population size, reproduction, and nestling survival. Some researchers also use coloured bands to visually identify marked individuals without having to recapture them.
There are a few bird species that can’t be banded at all. New World Vultures, of which the Turkey Vulture is the only species found in Canada, cannot be banded around the leg due to a behaviour known as urohydrosis. These large carrion-eaters defecate on their legs as a way to cool them off. The buildup of excrement around the band causes corrosion and eventually leg damage. Researchers switched to wing tags to mark Turkey Vultures when the issue became known in the 70s.
The CWHC Western/Northern has been banding waterfowl in conjunction with avian influenza testing of live birds since 2015. 2020 was a bit of a challenge for the team but with the proper precautions and PPE they were able to get out and still do some banding.