This Tufted Titmouse (one of my favorites) was caught in a mist net and is awaiting banding. The exercise was the latest class in the naturalist course I am taking, offered by the Rhode Island Natural History Survey.
This is one of the two mist nets (they’re called mist nets because the mesh is extremely fine) set up by Block Island naturalist and instructor Kim Gaffett, who has been bending birds for more than 30 years. Several birds were caught in the nets, and it takes great skill and patience to safely remove them from the fine mesh.
Here are the bands, in different sizes. Next to them is the scale that Gaffett used to weigh each bird. Several measurements are also taken, including how much body fat the bird has. All bird-banders must be federally licensed. The data they collect is added to what must be an incredibly massive database at the Bird Banding Laboratory in Patuxet, MD.
Here’s a House Sparrow being weighed in the mesh bag. I watched Gaffett band a couple of Dark-Eyed Juncoes, two White-Breasted Nuthatches, a Song Sparrow, a Field Sparrow, and a female Northern Cardinal. She still had several birds to band when I left.
Bird banding provides researchers with information on the the individual birds (general condition, weight, and sometimes, age) and when banded birds are found their band numbers are reported to the Maryland lab. Where they were found can tell scientists how far they travelled.
The netting and banding process is stressful for the birds, and the practice is somewhat controversial, although organizations like Audubon support it. So much depends on the skill of the person doing the banding.