On Saturdays throughout the summer the public can observe ornithologist Emily Thomas band birds at the Audubon Center and Sanctuary as part of the continent-wide MAPS bird banding program.
You can join Thomas to learn how scientists capture, band, and release birds for research purposes. Bird bandings are scheduled for Saturdays June 2, 16, 23 and 30, July 14 and 21, and August 4. The nets will be opened at 6 a.m. and close at noon. In case of rain, the bandings will take place the next day (Sunday).
Audubon is one of hundreds of stations collecting data on more than 200 bird species for the Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship (MAPS) Program, a bird banding project to learn about the breeding behaviors of birds. The research involves capturing birds in thin “mist” nets, gathering data and fitting each with a metal band that has a unique identification number, then releasing the bird. Each time a banded bird is recaptured, scientists learn a bit more about where birds go, how long they stay at their destinations, and other data.
Begun in 1989, the MAPS Program is one of many run by the Institute for Bird Populations, based in California. More information about the Institute and the MAPS Program can be found at www.birdpop.org.
With Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Wildlife and Fisheries Science from Penn State, Emily Thomas is a wildlife biologist for the U.S. Forest Service Northern Research Station’s Forestry Sciences Laboratory in Irvine, PA. Now certified by the North American Banding Council, in 2005 she learned how to band and has banded over 3,000 birds since. Thomas established a banding program at The Arboretum at Penn State and has participated in banding programs for Audubon and the Roger Tory Peterson Institute.
Audubon is an excellent location for a MAPS station. The Sanctuary houses a diverse array of habitats including many wet areas interspersed with small conifer plantations and deciduous forests. The area is home to many species of breeding birds including house wrens, gray catbirds, yellow warblers, common yellowthroats, swamp sparrows, and red-winged blackbirds. The ten mist nets scattered throughout the southwest corner of the sanctuary allow scientists to capture, band, and process these breeding birds. Observers are reminded to dress for the weather. If you want to go with the ornithologists to check the nets, you will probably want muck boots!
This opportunity is free, but donations are appreciated. Reservations are not required.