ID: From the field: Bird banding

Bird banding is a valuable and widely used technique for
studying the movement, survival, and behavior of birds.

Individual identification of birds makes possible studies of
dispersal and migration, behavior and social structure, life-span
and survival rate, reproductive success, and population growth.

Banding programs primarily for waterfowl have identified
distinct north-south flyways – or migration corridors – across the
North American continent. Idaho lies in the Intermountain West
Flyway – between the Pacific and Central Flyways. It is a busy
corridor for waterfowl, shorebirds, and migratory songbirds.

In recent years, neck-banded swans have been sighted in some of
the waterways of Lemhi and Custer County. In early 2010, a few
neck-banded tundra swans were reported in the lower Pahsimeroi
River during spring migration. Unique four-digit codes engraved in
the blue plastic collars identified the swans as migrants from the
Kotzebue Sound of northwest Alaska. Similar sightings have been
made in other parts of the state as well.

By reporting these sightings, researchers learn more about the
timing of tundra swan migrations and movements relative to their
distant breeding areas in Alaska.

Late last fall, a few trumpeter swans with red color-coded neck
bands were observed near Colson Creek and Cache Bar on the Salmon
River and in the Challis Hot Springs vicinity. The birds were
traced to a trumpeter swan restoration program in the Blackfoot
River Valley of Montana. In reporting the sightings, their
biologists learn migration routes, timing, and group composition
during migration of this reintroduced population.

Idaho Fish and Game biologists have banded many ducks, snow
geese, swans and other species in various parts of the state.

From bald eagles to hummingbirds, bird banding has yielded some
fascinating details about our local birds:

Color-coded leg bands read from live bald eagles have shown that
birds hatched in southwest Montana have established nest
territories here in the Salmon Region.

In May 2010, a color-coded metal band was recovered from a
golden eagle killed in a vehicle collision near Dillon, Montana.
The bird was banded in the Leadore area in 1992 as an adult,
meaning the bird was at least 20 years old.

In June and July 2009, a flock of 50 white pelicans took up
residence in Deadwater Slough. One of the adult birds had a metal
band on the left leg and a blue color-coded band on the right leg.
No researchers in the Pacific Flyway claimed ownership of blue
color bands, indicating the bird may have been marked in a
different flyway. This report is still under investigation.

One of the most interesting movements recorded was a 2009
recapture of a banded female black-chinned hummingbird near
Pocatello that was originally banded in 2006 in Houma, Louisiana –
a one-way distance of 1,600 miles.

Reports received by interested observers are invaluable to bird
banding programs. With the bird migration getting underway, please
report any sightings of neck-banded swans or geese to Beth
Waterbury at the Salmon Region office of Idaho Fish and Game.
Please report neck-band sightings from any other part of the state
to Colleen Moulton at Fish and Game headquarters in Boise.

Your eyes in the field are appreciated.

Jim Lukens is regional supervisor in the Salmon Region.


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