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Posts Tagged ‘Bird Banding’

The Record: Peregrine Falcons Enjoy Penthouse View From Jersey City

Wednesday, June 6th, 2018

Story by James M. O’Neill, The Record

A peregrine falcon chick is shown after it was removed from its nest for banding.

Several scientists, protected by the curious combination of an umbrella, a duster and a hard hat, scrambled across the roof of a Jersey City high-rise this week to fend off the fierce attack of two adult peregrine falcons.

The scientists were there to briefly retrieve three falcon chicks from a nest box 42 floors above the city streets, so they could weigh, measure and band the birds before returning them.

The three chicks, still covered in fluffy white down, are the latest additions to a growing population in New Jersey of the world’s fastest animal.

Click here to continue reading the story.
Click here to watch the accompanying video of the falcon banding.

Netting for Golden-winged Warblers in New Jersey

Friday, July 29th, 2016

by Kathleen Wadiak, CWF Intern

Interning for CWF allows me to take part in a variety of projects and learn from different professionals working throughout the state. One example of this is the morning I was able to learn about golden-winged warblers through a mist netting survey. Honestly, I did not know much about this little bird until we were driving to a power line right-of-way early one morning, and I was given a quick summary of why it’s causing a stir in our home state.

The golden-winged warbler (Vermivora chrysoptera) is a striking little gray bird with black eye and throat markings, sporting a bright yellow head with matching wing patches. New Jersey serves as part of its breeding grounds throughout the summer, when it migrates north from its winter habitat in Central and South America. Unfortunately, its populations have been in decline, resulting in its classification as a state endangered species.

A male golden-winged warbler. Photo by Kelly Triece.

A male golden-winged warbler. Photo by Kelly Triece.

There are a few possible reasons for the decline in golden-winged warbler populations, including a decrease in their habitat, early-successional sites which consist of shrubby and herbaceous ground cover instead of mature forest. To the golden-winged warbler’s disadvantage, much of its New Jersey forest was cut at the same time, resulting in even-aged stands that are now too old to provide the nesting sites necessary for survival. Currently, golden-winged warblers occupy regenerating clear cuts, wetlands, or utility right-of-ways in northwestern New Jersey, where they can still find the resources that they need.

In addition to habitat loss, interactions with the closely related blue-winged warbler (Vermivora cyanoptera) are impacting the golden-wings’ numbers. It is thought that as climate change causes shifts in the geographic range of both species, more overlap between the two occurs. This results in increased competition for food, nesting sites, and even mates, as the two birds are closely related.

Walking through the high grass under the powerlines, we stopped now and then to listen to birds singing and look for golden-wings. While my untrained ears had trouble differentiating between all of the different calls, a biologist with NJ Audubon confidently told us where to begin setting up each net. After the net was raised, different recordings meant to attract the warblers played while we stepped back and waited hopefully for the right birds to come.

Golden-winged warbler habitat. Photo by Kelly Triece.

Golden-winged warbler habitat. Photo by Kelly Triece.

It was exciting to see the first birds fly into the net and to have the opportunity to view them up close, even if they weren’t always the ones we were looking for. While we set up three nets throughout the morning, our first attempt was most successful as it resulted in the capture of one of the rare golden-winged warblers! Its banded leg told us that this wasn’t its first time in a net, and that it had been to this site in the past, a good sign for this particular stretch of habitat. Its dramatic markings and flashes of gold feathers made it a beautiful bird, and it struck me what a shame it would be if they disappeared completely from our state.

While things are tough for golden-winged warblers in New Jersey, hope is not lost as many organizations, including CWF, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, NJ Audubon, and NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife are working to keep these birds in the Garden State. Mist netting and banding the Golden-wings allow biologists to track the number and location of these warblers throughout their breeding grounds and aid in the creation of management strategy. In addition, there is an effort to educate private landowners about golden-wings and to help them manage their property in a way that attracts the birds. Hopefully, as this work continues, more land will be suited to their habitat preferences, and golden-winged warblers will return to their summer homes in New Jersey.


Jersey City Falcon ruffles some Canadian feathers!

Friday, September 18th, 2015
79/AN or “Ivy” thriving in Toronto

by Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager


Look at that plumage! A beautiful two year old female peregrine falcon. Photo courtesy Tommy Thompson Park Bird Research Station.

Look at that plumage! A beautiful two year old female peregrine falcon. Photo courtesy Tommy Thompson Park Bird Research Station.

I’ll never forget banding this particular eyas. Here’s a flashback entry of Nestbox News after the banding:


“The banding day when as smooth as it could. I found I would be all alone with banding there the evening before (Kathy was too engulfed in budgeting to join me). So, for the first time I would be banding at JC (Jersey City) all alone. I have banded young falcons before, so I wasn’t worried. If you know me, I like a good challenge! Six guests joined me to watch at 101 Hudson St. and our Executive Director, David Wheeler would be joining us to help. However, things changed rapidly.. Shortly after arriving I got a call from David that he had vehicles issues while only 1 mile away! He was stuck and could not abandon his car, which was a rental…bummer! I was all on my own now. For safety reasons, I was the only person allowed on the roof to grab the eyas. Easy, right? I thought so… I had all my gear: helmet, umbrella, gloves, box. Check. I headed out onto the roof to grab the eyas. As soon as I opened the door the adult female came diving down from the upper parapet to drive me off. We use an umbrella to ward her off. Since Kathy had the usual umbrella, I brought my wife’s. When I had to grab the eyas I needed two hands, so with no helper (to hold the umbrella) I sat it down on the edge of the nestbox and on my helmet. I quickly load the eyas in the box. I hear the female swoop down towards my head. The umbrella is gone! She took my wife’s umbrella and flew off with it! I bring the eyas inside, examined her (determined its a female) and band her legs for future tracking. All in all, everything went well considering the circumstances. I never found the umbrella…” —Fast forward to this past March… I got the umbrella back!! Building engineers at 101 Hudson St. found my wife’s umbrella on a ledge of the building.


Ivy to other sites

Map of nest sites and the banding station.

After an uneventful season for all of us Falcon Cam viewers this year we need some positive news… Well, last week 79/AN or “Ivy” was re-captured at a banding station outside of Toronto, Canada. She has also caused quite a news storm up there! After she was captured Tracy Simpson, Raptor Centre and Education Coordinator with the Canadian Peregrine Foundation started to piece together the puzzle…


“We were talking about her last night and thinking, “Oh yeah, remember that sub (adult) that showed up at that one nest a few times…  …and don’t forget that other incident downtown. Could that have been Ivy?”  So she is suspect number one in several incursion incidents around the southern province all along the lakeshore area.” said Tracy. Apparently Ivy is working her way into the local peregrine falcon scene, which looks to be pretty active up there.


Sporting her bands. Photo courtesy Tommy Thompson Park Bird Research Station.

Sporting her bands. Photo courtesy Tommy Thompson Park Bird Research Station.

Ivy was caught in a mist net at a hawk watch/banding station, called the Tommy Thompson Park Bird Research Station. She was described as a “cracking female Peregrine falcon” who was already banded. They assumed she was a Toronto hatched falcon but after being caught they reported the bands to USGS and found out that she’s a Jersey City girl! Here’s a link to their post on Facebook with more photos.


Tracy informed me that they have some volunteers who are watching her interaction with the local resident pairs. She also said that Ivy “stands a real chance at finding a home here in Toronto.” We’re happy to know that 79/AN is alive and well in Canada. Hopefully we’ll get some more news on her in the future, all because she was banded!






Learn more:


Ben Wurst is the Habitat Program Manager for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.


Banding Together: When the Shorebird Met the Biologist

Sunday, September 6th, 2015
Celebrating World Shorebirds Day, Sunday, September 6

by Lindsay McNamara, Communications Manager

Red Knot Photo by: Jan van der Kam

Red Knot Photo by: Jan van der Kam

As a bird nerd, I’d often look on enviously at photos of biologists posted online holding shorebirds in their “bander’s grip” – the bird’s head in between their index and middle finger, using their thumb and pinky to steady the bird, while allowing its feet to dangle freely.

I always wondered: I wish I could do that! Hold a bird in my hands. Yet I never once thought: Wait, how did the bird end up in their hands in the first place?

I certainly hadn’t thought biologists run all over the beach chasing after shorebirds like a farmer chasing chickens – I just never thought the process all the way through.

This past summer, I was fortunate enough to become part of that process and learned exactly how a shorebird ends up in a biologist’s bander’s grip. The system may surprise you, but the steps have been mastered over nineteen years of practice, each one with shorebird safety as the top priority.


Conserve Wildlife Foundation (CWF)’s Delaware Bay Shorebird Project celebrated its 19th year this summer. The team members, led by Drs. Larry Niles of CWF working with Amanda Dey of New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife, are all extremely passionate about what they do and care deeply for the shorebirds they are studying and protecting.

I arrived at the team’s house on Reeds Beach, along the Delaware Bayshore, early in the morning. Dr. Niles was concerned about the wind and had scoped out the safest beach for the banding that day. Our group of scientists, volunteers, supporters, interns and staff caravanned to Villas and joined our partner, American Littoral Society, at the site. We all picked up large, colorful plastic tubs, which had cloth covers that fit securely over the top of the box. The cloth cover had a Velcro pocket. We were told that these boxes would help in the shorebird “catch” that day. Larry and Mandy gave us instructions for how the banding day would go, safety tips and background information on the Delaware Bay Shorebird Project. We all listened intently and couldn’t wait for the day to begin!

The team waiting with our bins. Photo by Lindsay McNamara

The team waiting with our bins. Photo by Lindsay McNamara.

Well, we waited a bit before the day truly started. Dr. Niles and his team had binoculars with them and sat down in the sand, watching the shorebirds from afar for about an hour and a half. We waited by the cars up near the houses along the beach. The reason for the long wait? Dr. Niles and his team were waiting for the perfect moment to fire the net over top of the shorebirds along the coastline.

Biologists rolling away the net to reveal more shorebirds. Photo by Lindsay McNamara.

Biologists rolling away the net to reveal more shorebirds. Photo by Lindsay McNamara.

Cannons with gun powder charges fire heavy projectiles that carry the net over the birds only at the perfect moment – when birds are catchable and none in danger. Luckily, it was not a “wet catch,” that day, as the net did not go into the water. As soon as the cannon was shot, we all spirited single file carrying our tubs down the beach, following the biologists. The biologists immediately knelt at the base of the net and started picking up birds and shouting their identification and passing them to us, as they went they rolled the net away to reveal more birds.

It was very exciting! The idea was to get the birds out from under the net and into our carrying boxes and sealed in with a Velcro flap, as fast as possible, for the safety of everyone involved.

Each bin became devoted to the same bird species, so if the first bird that was handed to us was a sanderling, we kept putting only sanderlings in our bin. Once we had several birds in our bin, our pace completely changed. We walked very slowly away from the net, keeping the bin level at all times, towards the path in the sand at the beginning of the beach, to make the journey as safe for the birds as possible. There, biologists had burlap “keeping cages” for the birds to wait in. Birds were also sorted by species into these cages.

When every bird was taken out from under the net, and sitting in their temporary burlap enclosure, we formed “circles.” Each circle was composed of about 6 volunteers led by a core banding team member. Once formed birds were handed to us and finally, I learned how to safely hold a shorebird in my very own bander’s grip!

My very own bander's grip! Lindsay McNamara holding a sanderling.

My very own bander’s grip! Lindsay McNamara holding a sanderling.

Each bird received a metal band with a federal identification number, and a green tag with a three letter code. One person in the circle put the band on the bird and passed the bird to the next person, who placed the green tag on each birds’ leg and glued them shut. A recorder took notes on the band number and tag letters. Next, the birds’ wingspan and other data points were measured by other members in the circle. Lastly, the bird was weighed before it was released. During my trip with the banding team, we caught a large number of sanderlings and a few ruddy turnstones, federally listed red knots, and semipalmated plovers.

Banding team supplies. Photo by Lindsay McNamara.

Banding team supplies. Photo by Lindsay McNamara.

Holding a shorebird in my bander’s grip was an amazing experience, but what I enjoyed most of all was taking part in the science of shorebird conservation. I placed the green tags on the shorebirds, which will tell other scientists who may recapture the birds that they once traveled to New Jersey. Our circle helped collect valuable data points, which will be combined with the data from the other years of the Shorebird Project, to assess the health of shorebird populations.

I wasn’t just holding a bird, I was helping the bird have a brighter future – and that is the best feeling any bird nerd can have.

Today is World Shorebirds Day! You can help shorebirds have a brighter future today by participating in the Global Counting Day Program. Join the hundreds of participants at over 93 locations that will count shorebirds and share their sightings online. Register today!


Learn more:


Lindsay McNamara is the Communications Manager for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.

2015 Delaware Bay Shorebird Banding Season Comes to a Close

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015
Delaware Bay Shorebird Project Team Finishes 2015 Banding Season

By: Dr. Larry Niles, LJ Niles Associates LLC

All our efforts to help shorebirds on Delaware Bay this year couldn’t have been better rewarded – nearly every red knot left the bay in good condition and in one of the earliest departures in the 19 years of the Project. We counted just over 24,000 knots in our aerial count of the entire Bayshore on May 26th. Just two days later, most had left and we could find only a few hundred, feeding on eggs like human shoppers feed on bargains at a half-price sale. By May 31st, virtually all were gone, along with the ruddy turnstones, sanderlings and semipalmated sandpipers. The beaches had an odd, deserted feel after the frenzy of the preceding days.

Photo by Jan van der Kam from Life on Delaware Bay

Photo by Jan van der Kam from Life on Delaware Bay

A good thing for birds and all those who love birds. The end of the shorebird stopover season also means the end of our shorebird team – at least for another year. All through the week, we lost team members—the North Americans left by car, those from other continents by air. Those who stayed shifted from research to manual labor: cleaning and storing equipment, closing up the rental houses, and reconnecting lost items to their owners.

Photo by Kevin Karlson

Photo by Kevin Karlson

Will our project continue? Now in our 19th year of work on the bay, one must recognize the realities of time’s passage. Clive Minton just cleared 80, and the rest of the original team will soon follow. This author, who started at relatively young 44, is now pushing his mid-sixties. Death visited our team this year with the passing of Allan Baker. Surely the rest of us will start “falling off the perch” as Clive is fond of saying.

Allan Baker, the Senior Curator of Ornithology and Head of the Department of Natural History at Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum suddenly and unexpectedly died in 2014.  His career included many significant achievements including early work that helped build a scientific case that overharvested horseshoe crabs caused the decline of red knot numbers. Photo from Wader Study.

Allan Baker, the Senior Curator of Ornithology and Head of the Department of Natural History at Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum suddenly and unexpectedly died in 2014. His career included many significant achievements including early work that helped build a scientific case that overharvested horseshoe crabs caused the decline of red knot numbers. Photo from Wader Study.

And yet, all committed to return for a 20th year. I worry over the fundamentals: our funding remains uncertain, the listing of knots as Threatened in the U.S. creates new regulatory hurdles, and N.J. politics seem to get more fractious every minute. Will there be a 20th year of this project?


The answer starts and ends with the willingness of our team to do it again. It starts there because good ideas and projects always seem to find support; I know we will find a way. It ends there because this team provides the best chance of a strong scientific underpinning for protection. Our team includes some of the most important shorebird scientists in the world. At our dinner soirees (generously provided by Jane Galetto’s Citizens United team), Ph.D.’s are as common as empty beer bottles. It’s no surprise that conversation drills deep into conservation biology, behavioral ecology, migration physiology, stopover ecology, virology and many other subjects of interest to all our team, both scientists, old and young, and lovers of good science.


In many ways, the lives of our team members revolve around birds. The Delaware Bay Shorebird Project provides us a meaningful excuse to pull together once more. Our team members love birds, and do everything they can to help them. It’s been that way for 19 years, and it is this commitment that has led to this year’s results.

p180 red knots

This graph plots the percentage of red knots caught between May 26th and May 28th that have achieved at least 180 grams against the year of the catch. The 2015 result is still an estimate.

For the first time in 19 years, red knots left in a condition similar to the lucky ones migrating through before the fishing industry decimated horseshoe crabs in 1997. After that year, the populations of knots, turnstones, semipalmated sandpipers, and sanderlings fell off a cliff. For the last four years, however, the terribly reduced populations of shorebirds have been in rough balance with equally reduced number of horseshoe crabs breeding on the Bay. Consequently, the percentage of knots reaching the threshold weight of 180 g has climbed. (Knots need at least this weight to reach the Arctic and breed successfully.) From a low of just 5% making weight in 2003, they’ve clawed their way upward 30% in 2010, 50% in 2013 and now this year’s 90%.

Fat knot on the scale by Philippe Sitters

Fat knot on the scale by Philippe Sitters

One must be cautious about the interpretation of this number but the catch of red knots on which it was based were truly fat birds! One weighed 226 grams, nearly 100 grams higher than its fat free weight. Whatever the figure it was a good season for both birds and the people who love them.

Learn more:

Dr. Larry Niles has led efforts to protect red knots and horseshoe crabs for over 30 years.