Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The processes of bird banding

I have for some time refrained from showing any details of the processes of bird banding, for what you might refer to as "ethical" reasons. For many years, my father was the sole authorised importer of mist nets in Australia, acting as an agent for the licenced Bird Banders in Australia . He was always conscious that there is an active black market trade in native birds and animals. So, we always tried to keep from the public gaze any details of the processes involved.

However, it seems that licenced Bird Banders are not quite so concerned to keep their activities "covert" any more. "Australia does not permit the export of live native mammals, amphibians, reptiles or birds for commercial purposes." We all know that it happens, or that people regularly get caught attempting to smuggle wildlife out of Australia, but the CITES Convention is very strong and it is enforced by Customs and the legal procedures and powers under CITES are administered by the Federal Dept of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts.

Anthony Overs, who I met last weekend at Charcoal Tanks has been running an excellent Blog called "An Australian Bird Bander". His blog is very interesting with lots of good photos of birds in the hand, and also some of the process of banding, both "bush birds", and also of the "pelagic birds" - Albatrosses, Petrels and Shearwaters.

So after some urging by Mick, who has experience of reporting Waders banded in the Northern Hemisphere at her area of Great Sandy Straits, and also Martin, Gouldiae and Tyto Tony, I have decided to make a straight forward report on the registered processes of bird banding in Australia such as I have been observing at Charcoal Tank.

The most important part is on the table - the record sheet.
Mark is measuring the head and beak size of this Bronzewing Pigeon
prior to its safe release.
Crimping the correct sized ring on a Grey Fantail's leg.
The split ring is closed firmly together with a special set of banding pliers.
It is free to slide up and down along the tarsus ("leg") of the bird.
Correct sizes for all species are specified,
to avoid an overly large ring dropping down onto the foot.
This bird is just squawking a little bit, but no pain is inflicted.
They are not known as "Cranky Fantails" for nothing.
They might feel indignant at being handled, so they let you know.
No pain is inflicted, and they recover very quickly.
Measuring the wing of a White-eared Honeyeater.
Here is a "Head and Beak" measurement being conducted
on a Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater.
This bird has been banded first of all, to minimise the risk of it escaping
without having been banded.
The Yellow-tailed Thornbill is informally referred to as a "Butter Bum".
Here it is being checked for any signs of moult.
Plumage details form part of the all important banding record.
This is a photo of a Mist Net set up in position.
It is practically invisible at right angles.
This image shows you looking through the net from one metre away.
Here is a close-up shot of the back of my hand,
to show the fine net, just visible. (Click to enlarge)
The strong vertical line is one of the framework strands
There are five horizontal strands to support the mesh.
Looking along the length of the net, it is just visible in sunlight.
There are several "pockets" formed by the loose mesh
The strong horizontal strands give the entire net the necessary support.
But the looseness of the mesh prevents harm to birds flying in at speed.
And here is the finished product.
This Western Gerygone is resting in a tree
after having been trapped, banded and released.
It flew away within 30 seconds of being released into this tree.
As with many hundreds of other birds at Charcoal Tank it now carries a band from which its life history can be monitored and analysed.

After many years of bird banding in the Brindabella Ranges, my father (S J Wilson) retired and then spend many more years writing up the records (more years than he had spent doing the banding, I mean). The life history of small bush birds is amazing with records of small birds like Thornbills and Scrubwrens living up to 17 years. This is information which nobody suspected until long term banding studies were conducted.

It is also very different from the experience in the Northern Hemisphere, where weather is more extreme, forcing many birds to migrate to mild climates in autumn ("fall") and back again in Spring. With such arduous trips most small birds in Europe and the USA live only a few years. Our small bush birds, if they can secure a territory for themselves, might never have to move more than a few hundred metres from home, and can live there until some dramatic event such as a bushfire intervenes. Nobody had any idea they lived so long until long-term banding studies were conducted.


Anonymous said...

That's a fascinating report Denis, thank you for taking the trouble to put it all together.

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Barbara and Allen
Thanks for your comment and support.

mick said...

I agree - fascinating. And thanks for the links to the other sites. What impresses me most is the long term dedication to collecting data/info from an area. That is the way to build knowledge and hopefully promote proper conservation for the future.

Tyto Tony said...

Fine report. Thanks Denis.

Gouldiae said...

G'day Denis,
Thanks for a great report. Very informative. Well done.

Denis Wilson said...

Thanks for your comments, Mick, Tony and Gouldiae.