Bird banding as part of responsible land stewardship

Warbling vireo that was just banded. Also shown are the banding pliers used to apply the band, data sheet, wing chord ruler and digital scale. (Photo by NCC)

Warbling vireo that was just banded. Also shown are the banding pliers used to apply the band, data sheet, wing chord ruler and digital scale. (Photo by NCC)

The Nature Conservancy of Canada’s (NCC's) Saskatchewan Region is participating in an international project to monitor bird populations in North America. The Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship (MAPS) project is taking place at NCC’s Big Valley property, located outside of Craven, Saskatchewan.

NCC is working with the Institute for Bird Populations to humanely capture and band breeding songbirds in the Qu’Appelle Valley. A standardized system of fine mesh nets is used to capture birds during the summer nesting season. MAPS operators band the birds and collect data on the birds' age, sex, body condition and reproductive status. The captured birds are given a lightweight, uniquely numbered aluminum leg band and released unharmed.

The MAPS project will enable Saskatchewan conservationists to learn the health of local bird populations while contributing to the overall knowledge of bird populations across North America. Data from the project will also be used to inform NCC’s management of the property. The Big Valley property in the Qu’Appelle valley was chosen because of the rich diversity of birds found in the area. The information collected will help maintain long-term health of the area's ecosystem.

The MAPS station gives NCC information about what is happening at the local level at our Big Valley property. This past summer, two nets at the Big Valley MAPS station caught most of the American redstarts captured in Saskatchewan. As a result, NCC now knows that there are American redstarts on the Big Valley property, but more importantly what specific areas and particular habitat type the species is using.

MAPS data also provides insight into the factors that drive bird population declines, and answers questions such as: What is the relationship between population change and weather, climate or habitat loss, and what can be done to reverse declines?

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Atlantic puffins (Photo by Bill Caulfield-Browne)