If your interests include both pet bird keeping and the conservation of wild birds, you may wish to consider becoming involved in a local bird-banding program. My own first crude attempts at this fascinating endeavor involved trapping birds as a child with an old-fashioned “stick-holding-up-a-box-trap”, and really took off when, courtesy of my naturalist grandfather, I acquired a professional Havahart Live Animal Trap.
I did not realize at the time that my activities were both illegal and ill-advised (bird banding is a skill that must be studied), but I must say that I was fascinated to see that my prize catch, a male cardinal that I “banded” with a child’s plastic ring, remained within a very limited territory and tolerated no other males of his species.
I later became involved in professionally organized bird banding projects, and found the close contact with wild birds to be most gratifying. I was surprised to learn that over 70% of the bird banders in the USA operate on a volunteer basis, and that well-trained people are often in demand for various projects.
Obtaining a Federal Bird Banding Permit
Those wishing to band birds in the USA must obtain a federal permit from the US Department of the Interior. Applicants must show that they can identify and safely trap, handle and band those species with which they will be involved. Prospective banders can take courses or participate in organized banding programs as interns in order to gain experience.
Value of Banding Data
Bird banding programs have been in operation in the USA for over 100 years, and the resulting mass of data has given us important insights into the behavior, ranges, population trends and conservation needs of a great many species.
Banding studies have been particularly useful in showing us that international cooperation is required if wide-ranging bird species are to be effectively protected. Migratory birds may winter, feed, breed and pass through several continents and dozens of countries in the course of their travels. Conservation efforts for such birds will be effective only if protection is provided in each of the habitats that they utilize.
Feeding and Observing Local Birds
Of course, you don’t need to trap and band birds in order to enjoy their beauty. Providing wild birds with food, water and shelter will draw numerous species within viewing range, and will help them to survive and reproduce. Please check out our wide variety of wild bird foods, feeders, books and related items.
You can apply for a banding permit and learn more about the process at www.pwrc.usgs.gov/bbl.
Information concerning bird banding courses is posted at www.osnabirds.org/on/187.