Chapter of the Month

Chapter of the month: Wake Audubon – Young Naturalists learn bird-banding firsthand

Audubon North Carolina has 10 amazing chapters across the state that help put a local focus on bird preservation and conservation issues. In this special blog series, we’ll focus on a chapter each month to learn more about their history, what they are working on, and to increase the statewide understanding of special ecosystems and habitats. Each month will include a series of posts about each chapter including a post from our biologists that will share a unique research project that is happening in the chapter’s geographic footprint.

This month, we get to know Wake Audubon – Read on to learn more about our chapter based in Raleigh.

During the 2013 Audubon North Carolina annual meeting, our Young Naturalist Club was given the opportunity to participate in a bird banding activity at Prairie Ridge. Read all about how the budding scientists were able to gain first-hand knowledge and experience with banding and fieldwork.

The following account of the morning’s activities was provided by one of our Young Naturalists.

Wake Audubon was pleased to host the annual meeting of the North Carolina Audubon chapters this year in Raleigh. One of our exciting meeting field trips featured bird banding at Prairie Ridge Ecostation, an off-site field station of the Museum of Natural Sciences. The 38-acre station has been restored for teachers, students and the public to have a hands-on learning experience with the natural world. On this trip, Audubon members and Wake Audubon’s Young Naturalists had the opportunity to participate in the banding process.

On Saturday, June 1st, John Gerwin took some members of various NC Audubon chapters, as well as a few Young Naturalists from Wake Audubon, to bird band at Prairie Ridge Ecostation.  We started the day around 7:30 a.m. because birds are most active in the early morning.

Earlier that morning, many nets had been set up and opened by Keith Jensen, a research technician with the Museum of Natural Sciences. They reminded me of volleyball nets, with very small holes, and made of fine material.

During the morning hours, two groups went out to check the nets in different areas. Olivia and I, as well as the other Young Naturalists, went with John, so that he could teach us how to take the birds out of the nets without harming them. Since it was windy during the first round, the birds could see the nets more easily than usual, and we only caught a few on the last net checked, but we were able to catch a few Goldfinches, and two Juvenile Starlings.

Juvenile Starling caught in the net.

We learned from John that the first step to taking birds out of the net is to take care of their feet.  One male Goldfinch didn’t struggle, but it was difficult to get the fine strings untangled from his claws.  This Starling’s feet were very strong, but once getting the hind claw free, its grip loosened.  Next we focused on each bird’s tail, wings and head.  Each case varies, but the tail and head are usually the easiest to get free.  The wings are harder, because if the bird struggles, the wing’s individual feathers get more tangled.

After each bird was out of the net, he/she was put into a cloth bag to be taken to the banding station.

One female goldfinch being taken out of the net was already banded. That’s important because we can see how she has changed since the last time she was caught!  Recaptures are vital, because scientists can find out more information pertaining to the individual species.

A male goldfinch’s wing is being measured by Olivia Merritt. 

At the banding station, more goes on than just banding.  We were able to weigh, measure wing length, check body fat, brood patch (bird may be breeding), cloacal protuberance (to check the breeding status), age, sex and molt. To measure the true length, we did not spread the wing open, but instead gently placed the slightly open wing on the ruler without any pressure.

The best bird banded that day, was an orchard oriole.

Audubon North Carolina oversees statewide conservation projects year-round. To donate to this and other efforts protecting birds, click here.

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