People passionate about nature

Banding at Delta Marsh Bird Observatory

The only MB station part of the Canadian Migration Monitoring Network

Delta Marsh Bird Observatory has been banding songbirds since 1992. It was originally found at Delta Marsh but due to flooding and habitat loss the station was moved to Oak Hammock Marsh Wildlife Management Area in 2011. We are the only station in Manitoba that is a part of the Canadian Migration Monitoring Network. We have banded over 50,000 birds and over 100 species, over the last 26 years.

Above: Banding Station (courtesy of DMBO)

Delta Marsh Bird Observatory operates with the help of volunteers during spring and fall migration. We catch birds using mist nets. Mist nets are 2.5m tall and 12m long and the mesh is very fine making the nets difficult to see. Birds hit the net and their own weight creates a pocket. We check our nets every half hour and trained volunteers extract the birds from the nets. Once caught, the bird is first and foremost identified! Different species of birds have different sized legs and therefore different sized bands. Once identified and banded we then try to age and sex the bird. Which can sometimes be hard to do. Almost every bird gives us clues as to its age. We check out the quality of their feathers and we look for feathers that have been moulted and replaced.  We then measure its wing length, check for fat, and breeding characteristics.

Above: Volunteer, Jeff, working with net (courtesy of DMBO)

At the banding station we catch a large variety of songbirds. The smallest bird we band is the Golden-crowned Kinglet and the largest bird would be the Northern Flicker. We also catch the odd Ruby-throated Hummingbird and birds of prey although we don’t band those ones because they require special bands and training. Some highlights from this Fall season include Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Mourning Dove, Cooper’s Hawk, Magnolia Warbler, Nashville Warbler, and Blackpoll Warbler. We see quite a few more warblers during migration as well as Juncos and White-throated Sparrows!

Above: Yellow Warbler (courtesy of DMBO)

We can learn a lot from banded birds. Banding helps us to discover stopover sites and what sites should be protected across North and South America. It is also a great way to learn about cyclical species, like species that erupt with spruce budworm outbreaks in the boreal forest. We also learn about many of our residents at the marsh like Yellow Warblers, Common Yellowthroats, Swamp Sparrows, and Song Sparrows. We learn about their life expectancies and survivability. We can compare male to female ratios and understand how weather and climate has an impact on different species. Having a better understanding of our natural world can help us to take care of it!

Above: Brown Thrasher (courtesy of DMBO)

During the fall we band 5 days a week through to September 30th. In the spring banding starts on May 1st and runs until the 31st.  We start half an hour before sunrise and continue for 6 hours. Visitors are always welcome to stop by and see what it’s all about but of course banding is all about bird safety, therefore we do not band during rain, heat, cold weather, or strong winds.

Above: Yellow-shafted Flicker being banded (courtesy of DMBO)

As we are primarily a volunteer run organization we are always looking for more volunteers! If you are interested in helping out feel free to send an email to: deltamarshbirdobservatory@shaw.ca

If you’d like to learn more about the banding process and how to band we will be offering workshops! Check out our website for more details about upcoming events.

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