Banded Sandpipers

Remember the banded semi-palmated sandpiper we found over the weekend along Duck Banding Road on Big Stone NWR? Well, Doug Buri found out where and when it was banded from Nate Thomas, the doctoral candidate working on tracking them:

The first bird was banded about 2 miles south of Salt Lake on the Minnesota/South Dakota border on July 21-23 2004. That means that the bird is at least 3 years old! Since we couldn't read the individual band number, we don't know if it was tagged as an adult or an immature bird but it has been surviving and migrating since 2004! WOW!

I didn't mention that on our final field trip, we found a second banded semi-palmated sandpiper with different colored tags. I can tell you from my other banding experiences that finding recovered birds is unusual, but finding two banded birds in a weekend--that's unbelievably rare. Again, we couldn't read the individual band number, but based on the color marks on its legs, Nate said the bird was banded in either 2003 or 2005, making the bird either 4 or 2 years old.

These birds breed in the Arctic and migrate down to South America for the winter. Think of the thousands of miles they cover year after year--I'm still trying to wrap my head around that one. What is this saying about migratory route fidelity? So, if you are lucky enough to see any shorebirds in your neck of the woods, even if you can't identify them, think about the migratory journey they could be on.