Having your Tree Swallows banded:
One special way you can learn about songbirds is by having your adult and nestling
Tree Swallows banded. A banded bird carries a uniquely numbered light-weight
aluminum band that identifies it for the rest of its life and can identify its body after
death. You should consider having your swallows banded, especially if you plan to
operate your project for several years.
Why are birds banded?
According to the North American Banding Council recapturing live banded birds and
recovering dead banded birds can yield data that is valuable in the following ways:
- Tracing movements of birds: their migration routes, range expansions and
contractions, and dispersal of age classes.
- Measuring demographics and dynamics of different bird populations, survival
rates of age groups, age profiles of populations.
- Investigating bird ecology: territory sizes, dominance hierarchies, habitat
selection, changes in plumage and weight over time, effect of environmental
contaminants, tracking incidence and spred of infectious diseases, and
responses to experimental research variables.
- Establishing gamebird hunting seasons and harvest limits.
- Monitoring populations of species that are threatened or endangered.
- Teaching the public about birds by letting them observe birds being banded
and learning its value.
For more information see the web sites of the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center's
Bird Banding Laboratory or the Canadian Wildlife Service's Bird Banding Office.
For trapping, handling, and banding procedures recommended by Cornell University
specifically for members of genus Tachycineta swallows, including Tree Swallows, you
can refer to the Golondrinas Handbook.
Below: a string of one hundred of the size 1 bands used for Tree Swallows.
What can you learn by banding your Tree Swallows?
If you've established a good Tree Swallow nest box project 30%-60% of your adult
breeding swallows will return from year to year. Through banding and recapture over
several seasons you can learn a lot about your adult birds as individuals and about
your breeding population as a whole.
Although nestlings typically return at much lower rates you'll also be able to learn
things from banding them.
Here's a few things your banded Tree Swallows can teach you:
- How many adults return each year, and annual return rates.
- Minimal annual survival rate of your population.
- Age class composition of your population.
- Whether males or females are more apt to return.
- If return rates vary with nesting success the previous year.
- If returning pairs keep the same mates or nest with new partners.
- If returning birds use the same box or move.
- Which sex moves farther, if they move.
- If females lay the same number of eggs each year.
- If wing length changes from year to year.
- If reproductive performance changes as females grow older.
- If birds banded at your project are recovered or recaptured elsewhere.
- If birds banded elsewhere come to your project to nest.
- If nestlings raised at your project return as adults to nest.
- How nestling return rates compare to those of adults.
That's a lot of stuff! So having your birds banded might really be worth it
Finding a bander for your project:
- Bird Banding is strictly regulated, and only persons who have passed bander
training courses and possess proper government permits can band.
- Unless you have these qualifications you'll need to locate a licensed bander
and request his or her help.
- Local bird clubs or your state or province's wildlife conservation department
may be able to assist you.
- Or you can refer to the USGS Patuxent Bird Banding Laboratory's list of North
American Banding Associations and Bird Observatories, for names of banders
in your area who might be willing to band your birds.
What if you aren't having your swallows banded, but know one of your
nesters already has a band?
- You can try trapping it yourself. (See Banding Adults).
- If you can note the band number. You may need a magnifying glass.
Learn About Birds at Tree Swallow Nest Box Projects