Tuesday, June 29, 2010

M.A.P.S. / Banding a Bird

If a bird captured for momentary study does not already sport a numbered leg band, one is applied. Banding is the final step in the process, after examining the bird, after recording the collected data, and before the ultimate release. I could never have guessed how one goes about putting a metal band (I think it is lightweight aluminum---please correct me if wrong, Dr Zinn :-) around a wild bird's leg without hurting it, so again my curiosity was piqued.

Of course, as for most human endeavors, there are tools perfectly engineered for the task. The thickness of a bird's leg is first measured with a simple but cleverly designed instrument of calibrated notches, in order to select the correct size of band. The sizing instrument is a flat plastic card with notches along all four sides that correlate with all potential leg sizes. This photo shows the leg-sizing card, the apparatus for measuring the wing, and the hand pliers used to clamp on the band.
The bands are small metal tubes, open on one side like the letter "C," that come on a carefully regulated wire, so as to always be applied in proper numerical order. The precisely sized and numbered band is inserted into a specialty pliers, again with perfectly sized notches engineered so as not to injure the bird, and using the hand pliers, BINGO,the band is gently clamped around the shaft of the leg, allowing it to fit like a loose bracelet.

Swallow, little swallow, (a reference to Oscar Wilde's The Happy Prince), your discomfort is almost over. Next step, release, but for that near-religious experience, you must wait till next post. dkm

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