[va-bird] Re: Banding

  • From: "Bob Reilly" <rjreilly@xxxxxxx>
  • To: "va-bird" <va-bird@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 2 Oct 2006 09:05:22 -0400

In response to the remarks of Larry Kline:

I suggest that we not underestimate the role that banding operations play in 
expanding the lay public's knowledge of what there is to be protected and how 
dependent avian biodiversity is upon the decisions that we all make.  The 
experience has turned many of us into lifelong conservationists.  


The statement that "most migration and nesting data is already known" reveals 
basic ignorance of the nature of scientific research and of the state of avian 
ecology in particular.  The breeding biology of most passerines is poorly 
known, with questions remaining on the basic factors that contribute to 
reproductive success in most species and indeed to the methods by which those 
factors can be identified.  In most of this work banding plays a central role, 
as even a cursory examination of the thesis research proposals of graduate 
students in avian ecology will demonstrate.  Our knowledge of avian migration 
ecology is even poorer than our knowledge of breeding ecology.  As a sampling, 
this includes habitat and prey requirements, species interactions, the 
influence of weather events and patterns, and the impact of human activities 
along migratory corridors.  All these topics are the subject of concentrated 
research efforts by a large number of investigators with many of the most 
important questions being framed in the past few years. A simple search of the 
Biological Sciences database for the past few years will reveal several hundred 
articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals whose methodology depends upon 
banding studies. With regard to qualifications and attendant field protocols, 
it should be recognized that banders are highly skilled, federally licensed by 
the Dept. of the Interior, and are expected to handle birds with the bird's 
welfare their first responsibility.  Data are taken as quickly as possible and 
the birds are released unharmed.  I have seen many small passerines captured 
repeatedly in the course breeding research and have confirmed time and again 
that such birds experience no discernable physical or behavioral effects from 
the handling nor any reduction in reproductive success. 

Large-scale, constant-effort banding programs are indispensable in both the 
field of avian ecology and the in critical effort by both private and public 
organizations to channel limited conservation dollars to the right places. 
Banding data can and does identify habitats which are important to the 
reproduction and survival of particular species, and this data informs both 
organizations and individuals who bear the responsibility of land use 
decisions.  Examples of nationwide, large-scale banding programs mounted to 
address such questions are the MAPS and MOSI programs of the Institute for Bird 
Populations and the banding programs conducted in association with the Landbird 
Migration Monitoring Network of the Americas, an organization jointly sponsored 
by both public and private entities, including the Cornell Laboratory of 
Ornithology.  Visit their websites at http://www.birdpop.org/ and at 
http://www.klamathbird.org/lammna/  to learn a bit about their work.  

Recoveries of banded migrants at distant locations is not needed to address 
most of the questions referenced in the aforementioned body of research, and 
hence focusing on it misses the point.  By contrast, short-term recapture of 
banded birds at migratory stopover sites is commonplace and is regularly used 
to address questions about foraging behavior and the local conditions that may 
contribute to migratory success.  

The field of migratory stopover ecology is quite young and is only beginning to 
receive the attention it deserves from the research and conservation 
communities.  I respectfully submit that one might stop to investigate before 
carelessly passing judgment on the work of thousands of researchers, 
conservationists, and dedicated volunteers.   

Bob Reilly


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