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Birdchick Blog: Retrapping Banded Birds

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Retrapping Banded Birds

So, why is this bird so exciting? What is this bird's id? If you don't know the id, they eyes of this bird should be a hint--note the red eyes. Now is it clicking in? It's a red-eyed vireo. And this particular vireo was in the blog not too long ago!

This bird was banded at Carpenter Nature Center on May 26 and had its photo in the blog May 29th. I was told that the same vireo was netted again at Carpenter in June while I was away, and now here it showed up for a third time in the nets on July 7th. Every now and then I meet people are against banding birds, that it is too cruel and that banders are traumatizing and scarring these birds for life if not out right killing them. If that's the case, why is this vireo showing up in the nets once a month? This bird has made an informed decision about where to set up it's territory. The nets are set up in the same spots when birds are banded, if the bird was so traumatized the first time it was banded, it would have gotten the heck out of dodge and set up a nesting territory elsewhere. At the very least it would have avoided the area where the nets are. And this vireo isn't the only retrap, many species end up being retrapped at Carpenter, it's a helpful tool in determining how long certain birds live in the wild. I'm not saying that a bird's favorite activity in life is to be handled by humans and to be banded, but birds are not as traumatized by it as some would believe. Think about what a bird goes through on a day to day basis: constantly on the lookout for Cooper's hawks, foxes, cats, snakes, never knowing where that next meal is coming from for sure, defending it's territory--violently if necessary from rivals or other species, sitting out storms, getting up and doing it's job every single day--regardless of how it feels--now that's a work ethic. Birds are hardy, tough, resilient creatures. Five minutes of banding is not going to wreck them for the rest of their life. It certainly does far less damage than someone who finds a young bird of prey and feeds it only hamburger and chicken breasts or a young robin and feeds it only bread and milk.

Since the vireo had posed so nicely with a song sparrow in May, I tried photographing it with a nuthatch for comparison this time. Nuh-uh, that nuthatch was not going to have any of that. The nuthatch trashed and snapped and made such strange catcalls that we decided to let it go. When both birds came in the nets, they were fairly low to the ground--the vireo surprised me, that's a bird I tend to associate with the tops of trees and here it had flown into the net only three feet from the ground and about the same time as the nuthatch--hm, I wonder if they were chasing each other?

I was the one who got the white-breasted nuthatch out of the net. I had to stifle my chuckles while I removed her. First she did her caterwauling, but then she started doing that usual nasally nuthatch "her her". I could feel her body vibrate in my hand while she made her yanking calls. Very cool.

Other birds we got in the nets today included a very tiny house wren--we had heard a winter wren that morning and were hoping for one, but got the boisterous house wren instead. It's so hard to believe this tiny guys make such a loud call.

We also got in SEVERAL recently fledged red-winged black birds. The young blackbird pictured above was so fresh from the nest you could still see the edges of the gape that baby birds have.

On a side note, Non Birding Bill just informed me that the Disapproving Rabbits pages are getting more traffic than the blog...Cinnamon is demanding an increase in her parsley allowance and is threatening to hire an agent if we don't comply.

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