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Volunteers gather for annual NY bird banding effort

Published: May. 11, 2022 at 2:57 PM EDT|Updated: May. 11, 2022 at 7:49 PM EDT
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CROWN POINT, N.Y. (WCAX) - It’s peak bird migration season -- and bird enthusiasts are taking advantage of it. For the next 10 days, a group of volunteers in Crown Point, New York, will be capturing birds to collect data.

At Crown Point State Historic Site, you’ll find a group of volunteers waiting for birds. And while their jobs aren’t “for the birds,” they do serve to help the feathered friends.

“We’re catching birds and putting metal bands on their legs so we can document their presence here,” said Gordon Howard, who has taken part in the banding effort for nearly 40 years. He’s seen a lot of birds in his day, collecting data on species, sex, and age before sending it to the federal government. “Most often, we have yellow rump warblers, goldfinches, robins -- blue jays we’ve had a lot of recently.”

Banding stations like these are located all over the country, all collecting the same data points. And the data allows scientists to identify patterns, which can help determine trends in climate, disease, developments, and other aspects of nature and quantity. For example, Howard says hawthorn trees in years past were very popular with migrating birds. “And just about every leaf cluster had a little green worm in it, and they grow up and the birds come in and eat the little green worm. So, it’s like a fueling station, or driving on the highway and stopping at McDonald’s,” he explained. But it hasn’t been that way for the past five years due to a lack of caterpillars he added.

They’re able to keep track of these data points by putting little metal bands on each bird caught. Howard gave us a demonstration of how the nets work. “We have Rocket the blue jay, and he’s flying along and he goes into the net. The net stretches and slows him down and then he falls into this pocket,” Howard said. “We have these bird bands that are given to us by the federal government free of charge, but they’re not really free because we have to do all the work and catch the birds and band them.”

Even though they say it’s been a slow year for banding at this station, we were able to see two -- a tree swallow and a goldfinch. “It’s a fairly older male because it has the yellow, real pretty yellow here on the wing, so it’s an after second-year bird,” said Gary Lee, another volunteer. And once they’re banded, they’re released back into the wild unharmed.

The Crown Point banding station here has been open since May 6th and will close on May 21st at noon. They’re open from dawn to dusk and visitors are welcome. And if you’re around to catch a bird, you might even get to release it.

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