EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first of a two-part series.
“Hey, this bird’s banded.”
One of the most thrilling moments in a waterfowler’s quest is bagging a bird wearing jewelry. In addition to the keepsake, the memory will last a lifetime. There’s a story behind every banded bird taken; repeated to family, friends and strangers. With each audience, the shot becomes more difficult and the retrieve more spectacular. Many hunters display their bands on call lanyards, key rings and necklaces to mark their achievements. Wonder how many waterfowlers really know the history behind banding birds?
Early Romans started the practice to distinguish the emperor’s falcons and a Danish school teacher, Hans Mortensen, became the father of modern bird banding in 1890 when he placed metal leg bands or “rings” bearing his name and address on a variety of birds including ducks, hawks, storks and starlings. In 1909, bird enthusiasts formed The American Bird Banding Association. Then, in 1920, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Canadian Wildlife Service formed a partnership that remains today, banding birds to offer information on life span and migration routes. From individual returns, biologists compile data that indicates species numbers and hunter success.
Most ducks and geese are banded on summer nesting grounds, captured in a variety of traps and nets especially designed for said purpose. Some 17 sizes of lightweight aluminum leg bands are used, depending on waterfowl species. Also, special studies may use other materials in neck collars, wing clips and additional leg bands.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife band bears the inscription: Avise Bird Band, write Washington, D.C., U.S.A., plus the bird’s individual number, and in recent years, a toll-free phone number appears, making it more convenient for reporting. Of course, individuals banding the bird log their name, location and bird species along with the number on the band in anticipation of a recovery and return. Those who report a band number receive in return a certificate of information which gives them the aforementioned facts.
Occasionally, states, private organizations and individuals obtain permits to “tag” birds; one of the most noteworthy being the Jack Miner Bird Sanctuary located in Kingville, Ontario. Mr. Miner began banding ducks and geese in 1915 with each band including a Bible verse. To this day, the Miner family continues the tradition and furthers Jack’s legacy.
Since 1987, Larry Reid has hosted “Outdoors with Larry Reid,” WBGZ Radio, 1570 AM, Alton.