Songbird Banding

Owl Banding

Songbird Banding at NBNC

Nashville WarblerIt is said that “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,” and this was certainly the case at North Branch Nature Center, where bird banding was formally launched in the summer of 2011. In bird banding, birds are captured in mist nets, carefully removed, identified and measured, and "tagged" with a band before being released. Bands look like little metal bracelets the birds wear on their ankles to help identify them if they are recaptured in the future.

Being able to differentiate individual birds allows banders to gain insight into their abundance, productivity, survival rate, and other demographics that would not otherwise be possible. Furthermore, close examination of birds-in-the-hand can reveal anatomical traits that would be indistinguishable through binoculars, such as weight, feather molt, breeding status, and others. Decades of banding has demonstrated this technique to be a safe, cost effective way of learning more about birds, with meaningful insights towards improving avian conservation.

Data collected over the past four years has already shed some light on the birds of NBNC. Over 50 species of birds have been caught, with individuals of several species being recaptured in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014. Some of these birds have flown over 10,000 miles between NBNC and their tropical wintering grounds! We will continue to analyze our data to see what it can teach us about birds at NBNC, but we also contribute to a national program called MAPS that helps to track bird populations across the US and Canada.

In addition to providing important scientific data, banding has offered a unique way for children and adults at NBNC to connect with birds. Hundreds of children and adults have attended banding demonstrations, getting an up-close look at how scientists study birds. Some kids even helped release birds, a privilege that has inspired awe, curiosity, and a greater consciousness of how extraordinary birds are.

Blog posts about songbird banding:


adopt-an-owlOwl Banding at NBNC

A map showing 'foreign recaptures' and 'foreign recoveries' at our Shelburne and Montpelier banding sites. (updated 9/16/16)

In the fall of 2013, NBNC joined a network of scientists to help better understand the migration of the Northern Saw-whet Owl. NBNC piloted two banding stations on the Nature Center’s property in Montpelier and in Shelburne, VT.  

Why band migratory Northern Saw-whet Owls?
It wasn't until 1906 that scientists even knew that these owls were migratory and today much of their behavior is still a mystery. With banding stations throughout their range, however, scientists can gain insights into the timing of their migration, their migratory routes and overwintering areas, and their population cycles and trends. We are excited to be able to contribute to this effort to better understand this secretive, seldom-seen species.

How to get involved
The public has also been invited to observe banding both in Montpelier and Shelburne.  To date, over 400 people have visited the banding stations to learn about and see owls.  When catching owls, visitors observe the process of birds being banded, measured, and released. In between owls, guests have a chance to experience the outdoors after dark.  Wildlife abounds in the night forest, and we’ve seen many wonderful creatures on our late nights outside: skunk, opossum, barred owl, great horned owl, coyote, gray treefrog, porcupine, beaver… and shooting stars.  And most importantly, visitors get a chance to see science in action and deepen their understanding of and appreciation for the natural world.

Annual Report - 2014

Blog posts about owl banding:

If you are interested in observing or participating in either owl banding or songbird banding, please contact Chip .





North Branch Nature Center
713 Elm Street, Montpelier VT 05602
(802) 229-6206

Open Monday - Friday, 9am to 4pm
Trails open every day
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