Through the Audubon Society of Rhode Island (ASRI) I enrolled this spring in a course about birds, taught by Charles Clarkson. We were treated to a wealth of information from evolution to behavior, and song to identification. This past Saturday (May 9) we were treated to a bird banding demonstration. Charlie raised the nets in Beavertail State Park in Jamestown, RI. Although the morning was relatively cool and foggy, we did have some interesting finds.
Once a bird flies into the net it must be released with care. The rest position for a songbird’s foot is to have the toes closed, so that’s the first thing to do–free the feet. Then, ever so gently, Charlie works the bird out of the net, one hole at a time. Once freed, the bird is banded, with a careful notation of the species and the band number. Then several measurements are taken–the length of the tarsus, the culmen, the wing, and the tail. Finally, the bird is weighed, sexed, and aged, and then released. Care must be taken with territorial birds to release them in the same location where they were netted. Nothing worse for a male house wren defending a territory than to be released into another male’s territory!
I stayed for about three hours. We netted several gray catbirds, a few American robins, a male house wren, a male eastern towhee, and a black-capped chickadee. The chickadee had been banded by Charlie last fall, so it managed to survive the wicked winter RI experienced this year. Robins seem to be a magnet for bird diseases, such as avian flu. Although the ones we netted seemed to be healthy, Charlie did not want to risk contaminating the bags used for weighing the birds, so he released them without banding them. No shortage of robins in RI anyhow, so no concern about data loss.