Bird Banding in Ontario

Posted by Charlotte Wasylik, aka Prairie Birder,

This August and September, for four weeks, I was an intern at the Long Point Bird Observatory (LPBO) in Ontario, on Lake Erie, to help with fall migration monitoring. The Long Point Bird Observatory was founded in 1960 and is the oldest bird observatory in the North America. Long Point Bird has three banding stations — Old Cut, the main station, which is open to the public; Breakwater, about 10 km down the peninsula; and one at the very Tip of Long Point, accessible only by motor boat. I was at the Tip for the first three weeks, and then spent the last week at Old Cut.

A Black-throated Green Warbler at the Tip (September 2013),


Bird banding is important to bird conservation because it helps gather information about wild birds including their migration, life span, mortality, population numbers, geography, feeding behaviour, and more. Last year volunteers and staff at the LPBO banded over 35,000 birds of nearly 200 species. Long Point is a training and education bird observatory, and volunteers from all over the world take part in migration monitoring in the spring and fall; while I was at Long Point, we had volunteers from England, Germany, New Zealand, Colombia, the United States, and Scotland. While volunteers and interns are very important to all the work LPBO does, they gain a lot as well from the work. Many of us, including me, are working to get more banding and field work experience, and also toward enough banding hours for a banding permit. And it is an amazing opportunity to live, breathe, and sleep birds.

A female Sharp-shinned Hawk (September 2013),


Some of the ways LPBO catches birds for banding are in mist nets, Heligoland traps, jay traps, and ground traps. Long Point uses mostly mist nets, which are so fine that they are invisible to birds in the right light. The birds fly into panels and get tangled. The nets are checked every 20 minutes, and each bird caught is carefully removed and placed in a cloth bag to keep it calm and secure until it can be processed at the banding lab.

A Cedar Waxwing caught in a mist net at Old Cut last year (August 2012),


The actual banding is done by attaching a lightweight, metal band with a unique nine-digit code on the bird’s leg. The bander also takes measurements after each capture, such as the bird’s sex, age, skull ossification, and fat content. The bird is weighed and then released to continue on with its migration.

I’ve gained so much experience and knowledge from my time at Long Point, and have so many great memories.  If you’re ever in the area, just for birding or looking for banding experience, Long Point is perfect!

The different sizes of bands,


An after-hatch year male and female Canada Warbler (September 2013),


A male Black-throated Blue Warbler (September 2013),


Looking at the molt in a Blackpoll Warbler (August 2013),


A male Wilson’s Warbler (September 2013),


A Mourning Warbler after being weighed (August 2013),


A Rose-breasted Grosbeak in the net at Old Cut last year (August 2012),


Birds waiting to be banded at the Tip (August 2013),


A female Black-billed Cuckoo (August 2013),


Here are some videos of bird banding at the Long Point Bird Observatory:

About Charlotte Wasylik

Charlotte Wasylik is a young birder who lives on a farm in northeastern Alberta. She was delighted to be selected for a monthlong Young Ornithologists’ Internship at the Long Point Bird Observatory in Ontario in August-September, to help with fall migration monitoring. Charlotte’s blog is Prairie Birder, and you can also find her at the Facebook group she started last year, Alberta Birds, which welcomes all birders, bird lovers, and nature photographers.
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2 Responses to Bird Banding in Ontario

  1. Kathie says:

    Charlotte, what an amazing experience! What pretty birds you saw. It sure looks awful when the birds are caught in the net but it’s good to know they do not stay there for long and are quickly released!

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