Various methods of marking birds for identification are believed to go back as far as Roman times and this was generally done to indicate ownership. The first person to ring birds for scientific purposes was Danish ornithologist Hans Christian Cornelius Mortensen (1856-1921) who put aluminum rings marked with unique numbers and an address, first on the legs of European Starlings, and later on storks, herons, gulls and ducks, with the intention of tracking their movements. The first organized banding scheme was established at the Rossitten Bird Observatory by German ornithologist Johannes Thienemann in 1903.
Since those early days bird banding has been invaluable in gathering data for conservation and scientific purposes. But banding has its limitations, as once birds are set free they are very often only identified again when found injured or dead, and then only if the person finding the bird takes the time and trouble to report it. At best, bird banding provides only a few pieces of the puzzle of bird migration and behavior. However, rapidly advancing technology has opened up new avenues of tracking birds, with the most promising being satellite telemetry, which provides information immediately.
In 2005, satellite telemetry was used by the Wildlife Research Institute (WRI) and the United States Forest Service (USFS) to track Southern California’s Golden Eagles, and this was later expanded to include Montana. Tiny transmitters are attached to the birds and their signals are tracked by satellites no matter where they may travel. Working in conjunction with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) the WRI received data via the internet enabling researchers to determine exactly where the eagles have been and when. The information is so detailed that it can be determined how high the eagles flew, and how fast they were flying. In the event of an eagle not moving, it’s location can be pinpointed and the bird rescued if injured, or recovered if dead.
As plans for alternative energy sources in the form of wind and solar farms move ahead in California, data on migration, nesting and hunting patterns of Golden Eagles will be invaluable in ensuring the survival of this already endangered species. On a wider scale, the cost and availability of satellite telemetry is an obstacle that may be difficult to overcome, particularly in developing nations, and so bird banding remains an important activity for conservationists.
The 13th Annual Kern River Valley Hummingbird Celebration is a delightful day for bird enthusiasts. The day will involve learning about hummingbird feeder maintenance, a bird walk and nature walk, hummingbird identification workshop, how to garden for hummingbirds and much more. The Hummingbird Celebration is hosted at the ideal time of year for those taking part to see about six species of hummingbird, including Black-chinned, Anna’s, Costa’s, Rufous, Allen’s and Calliope. Don’t forget to pack a picnic lunch!
Date: 6 August 2011
Time: 8am to 2pm
Location: 18747 Highway 178
Country: United States of America
Bird watching involves identifying birds by their physical attributes as well as by their behavior. There are 9 points that can be used when identifying bird species – size, color, shape, bill (shape and color), leg (length and color), eye color, flight pattern, habitat and distribution. It is best to use a field guide for your area, for example a field guide on identifying British birds if you are in Britain, as these will contain the species for your area. The secret to bird identification is to recognize which family the bird belongs to. From there, finding the exact species is matter of elimination.
Let us take the example of identifying birds of prey. If you saw a large raptor with legs feathered to the feet, large powerful talons, you would know that it is a true eagle. To identify the exact species you would consider habitat, size and coloration. Another example of identifying birds of prey is: If you saw a small raptor with pointed wings, a long narrow tail, facial markings like “sideburns”, direct flight with rapid wing beats and hunting on the wing, you would know it belongs to the falcon family. By process of elimination you would identify the exact species of falcon.
When identifying backyard birds, consider the above points and pay particular attention to distribution. Distribution is an accurate and great help in identifying a bird. If a bird is noted as not being found in your area, chances are it’s a different species that you have spotted. Identifying garden birds can be difficult and may require the use of binoculars to note leg and bill color. However, starting with identifying backyard birds is the perfect way to begin birding.
Another useful way to determine bird species is by identifying bird song. Many CDs are available to assist in identifying bird song. Bird song is very species specific and leaves you with little doubt as to the bird you are listening to.
Once you have started to identify birds using the above tips, you will understand the delight that many bird watchers experience in observing these feathered wonders.
The Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) is a well-known bird of prey throughout the world and amongst the largest in North America. Osprey populations decreased due to pesticide poisoning during the 1950s to the 1970s. Although their numbers improved after the ban of DDT, they remain on threatened species and endangered species lists in some localities.
Ospreys are short-distant migrants who reside along waterways. As a large raptor, the Osprey is identified from beneath by their white breast and belly as well as their angled wings and the dark patch on the wrist bend. The back and upperwings are black. The wings are long and taper into a rounded tip. It has a short hooked beak ideal for capturing prey. A dark eyestripe marks the face. The tail is brown with white banding. They measure in at approximately 54 to 58 cm with a wingspan of 150 to 180 cm. The distinctive chirping whistle calls of the Osprey will also assist in identification.
Ospreys feed purely on fish, hovering over a body of water before plunging down to grab a tasty morsel. They have special barbed pads on their foot soles for gripping the fish, which they carry to the nest. Nests are frequently built on artificial structures such as nesting platforms, telephone poles, duck blinds and so forth. The nests are constructed with sticks and debris. Preferred breeding habitat for Ospreys is open water and wetlands. The pair will mate for life. A single clutch of 3 to 4 eggs is laid each year. Incubation is for 32 to 43 days. The chicks hatch individually over a period of 5 days. The oldest will gobble the majority of the food supplied by parents. This is not a major problem in times of abundance, but when little food is available the younger chicks will likely starve to death. In 48 to 59 days the young Osprey with fledge.
A very popular bird of prey, the Osprey features as Nova Scotia’s (Canada) official bird as well as the official bird of Sudermannia of Sweden. The name Osprey has been used for several sporting teams and the bird has been the official mascot of various universities and colleges. Ospreys are truly beautiful birds, exceptional fish hunters and fine parents, certainly worthy of conservation action and protection.
The main bird related activity that people engage in is that of bird watching, an activity that continues to increase in popularity with people all over the world showing renewed appreciation for the wonders of nature. Bird watching is a relatively inexpensive hobby and there are always opportunities to spot new bird species. One way to watch birds is to attract them to your garden. You can attract birds by providing food, water and shelter for them.
Use your bird guide to identify birds by looking at their general outline/shape, coloration, eye color, leg and bill color, behavior and considering the habitat that they are in. Listening to bird calls and sounds will assist you in identifying them. The more bird watching you do, the easier it will become to identify the bird species in your area. So don’t delay – get out there and spot some birds!