Bird Banding – An Experience to Remember

Ah, the desire to see birds up close and personal.  If you have never been to a bird banding, if you ever get a chance to see one, don’t walk, but run (quietly).  It is an awesome chance to see these beautiful birds like you have never seen them before.  The Concho Valley Birdbanders visit various bird areas, and people are most welcome to visit and observe.  Visit their link above to read more about them and their goals to report on the movement and behavior of birds around the state of Texas.

Upon arriving, they erect mist nets; very fine nets that are strung across poles in areas where birds are know to fly.  The birds fly into the nets, are then captured by hand and taken to the area where the banding is actually done.  The birds are unharmed, but some do enjoy scolding the banders as they go about their business.  It might be added that the mist nets are nearly invisible.  The material is so fine that I have walked right into a net before I realized it; like walking into a spider web.

Bander Charles Floyd running the nets.

White-eyed Vireo in mist net.

The banders record the date of capture, sex, age, species, health condition, and any other pertinent data.  They then attach a very tiny, light, metallic band with a number corresponding to such report, around the leg, then released.  Before such release,they usually hold the birds in their fingers for a minute or two, to give an opportunity for any photographers to get close-ups.

Painted Bunting

Indigo Bunting

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Wilson’s Warbler

Needless to say, it is a very educational experience.  An addendum:  I do not, for my personal albums or other professional use, ever photograph birds that are captured, set up, in zoos, or baited.  These photos were taken strictly for an article about this banding group.  This banding was done at the Hummer House Nature Retreat, in Christoval, Texas, on April 23, 2011.  Click on any of the images to see enlargements.

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42 thoughts on “Bird Banding – An Experience to Remember

  1. Very nice. The most memorable bird that I saw caught in a mist net was a Pileated Woodpecker. The bander was pecked a few times in the process. It is always fun to see the birds up close. Most times I am surprised by how small they really are.

    • Thank you, Greg. I just perused your blog, and I can see similarities in your work like mine. Excellent work. Nice to be in contact with another Texas photographer. I will follow your blog so I can see more. Thanks for visiting mine.

  2. Wow !!! What a great/fantastic experience to see the birds up class and personal. You can really get a good size relationship with them perched on the persons fingers. Neato!!!

  3. Beautiful – it must be a privilege to get so close to these lovely birds. How small is the woodpecker – and the buntings are just gorgeous.

  4. Had no idea of the tiny size of buntings and Wilson’s warblers. . Yes, i watched my first banding of Martins this spring and was quite excited except they retrieved the birds right out of the houses.Nice series, Bob.

  5. I’ve seen bird bandings in Arizona, and hummers banded at Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado. I’m trying to join a banding group here in Georgia but I work on the days they band. Darn!

  6. What a glorious album! Many thanks for sharing such wonderful photos! I can’t tell you the amazing things bird banding leads me into with my haiga… Your assortment of birds here are simply wonderful in their dazzling colors.

  7. There is a songbird observatory about 3 hours north of here that hosts an annual songbird festival including this experience and every year I plan to go. Unfortunately it is in June, which is a nastily busy time for me and I have never made it. You have just inspired me to try harder next year.

  8. Great shots Bob! They have bandings all the time around here, it is on our list! Thanks for sharing!

  9. That does sound like an experience to remember! I had wondered how such birds were caught for banding. Thanks for showing us the relative size of these birds. I too thought the woodpecker was larger. Big or small, these are beautiful!

  10. Beautiful images, Bob. And yes, those are some fine folks and I sure do miss the opportunity to see them in action every once in a while at Dan & Cathy Brown’s place. Their work is essential for ground-truth research about birds, migration patterns, and other things that add to our knowledge about the world around us.

    • Thank you very much, Jim. But it is easy to get a good photograph when the bird is in the vice. I mean the grip of the fingers. But the experience is very educational.

  11. we used mist nets in Costa Rica to catch tent bats for exactly the same purpose, to catch, study, measure, band, and release. We erected them in the forest at twilight, just before dark, to catch the tiny bats as they went about their nightly business. Very thrilling to see them up close. Sometimes it took awhile to get them free of the net, if they had struggled a great deal before we discovered them.

    • Not only is birding fun, but it can be exciting, too. When in the nets, I remember the Titmouses being extremely scolding, and the Northern Cardinals, can produce a pretty good nip on the fingers.

  12. Very interesting Bob – an experience I’ve never had. It must have been great fun to get such a close look at these beautiful birds. That woodpecker shot really shows just how small the species is.

    • Thanks, Ron. Yes, it was an amazing experience, and great fun. I learned quite a bit about the different species, too. I have joined them on a couple of other occasions, too, where I helped set up the nets, etc. To do the actual banding a person must be properly licensed.

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