Greg Kearns, a naturalist at Patuxent River Park in Prince George’s County, Maryland, reads the numbers on a newly-banded osprey during a tour of the river on Thursday, June 29. Members of the public were able to handle osprey and participate in the banding process, which helps researchers monitor the species.
During banding, birds are fitted with an aluminum ring around one leg—25 standard sizes and five specialty sizes mean bands can fit on anything from the large tundra swan to the tiny ruby-throated hummingbird. Each band is stamped with a unique eight or nine digit number, allowing researchers to track the movement and behavior of individual birds.
Banding data from across the country is sent to the Bird Banding Laboratory, housed at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, Maryland. More than 1.2 million banding records are send to the Bird Banding Laboratory each year, helping scientists understand migration patterns, population dynamics, sources of mortality and how long birds live. Much of the critical information known about birds like osprey comes from tracking and reporting banding data.
Not everyone can band a bird: to protect the safety and health of migrating birds, bird banding is strictly controlled and limited to trained, permitted professionals whose projects aid in bird conservation and management. However, anyone is welcome to report a banded bird. If you come across a banded bird, report the band number at www.reportband.gov or 1-800-327-BAND along with where, when and how you found it.