Update from the Banding Stations
By Araks Ohanyan and Katie Leonard
We are now in our 4th week of spring migration banding in Central Missouri! We band birds at two Conservation Areas, Mora and Bruns Tract, with 12 nets at each site. These nets are strategically placed in habitat areas ranging from high grasses to shrubs. This allows us to assess which habitat types are more popular overall, and the types of habitat different species prefer. Some nets get many more birds than others, but the lower volume nets sometimes catch the most diverse and interesting birds! The day-to-day weather conditions also have a huge impact on the number of birds we band. The best conditions for banding are partly cloudy skies with no wind, as the birds are most active and the nets are least visible. If it is too cold, too hot, too foggy, or raining, we can’t open nets!
These nets have been placed in the same locations for several years of spring migration banding; this helps determine how changes in habitat and conditions over time affect the species we encounter.
We’ve had our hands full with all kinds of interesting birds this season! So far, we’ve banded a handful of Brown Thrashers, Eastern Meadowlarks, Red-winged Blackbirds, Brown-headed Cowbirds, American Goldfinches, Northern Cardinals, a Northern Flicker, a Yellow-rumped Warbler, a White-eyed Vireo, a Gray-cheeked Thrush, and even two Wilson’s Snipe!
We’ve also banded several sparrow species including Field Sparrows, Savannah Sparrows, Swamp Sparrows, White-crowned Sparrows, Song Sparrows, a Grasshopper Sparrow, and a Le Conte’s Sparrow.
In addition to banding birds, we also keep a log of all species that are seen or heard at the banding sites. Notable detections include Short-eared Owls, a Great-horned Owl, a Barred Owl, a Merlin, American Woodcocks, Common Yellowthroats, Blue-winged Warblers, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, several kettles of Broad-winged Hawks, a couple of Ospreys, Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, an Indigo Bunting, and a few target species like Upland Sandpipers, Northern Bobwhite quails, and Henslow’s Sparrows.
While some species will be leaving us soon, we are looking forward to the arrival of many interesting ones, including Dickcissels, Bobolinks, Bell’s Vireos, Yellow-breasted Chats, and various Warblers.
Sometimes, after banding is done for the day, we like to drive around the area and look for birds. We recently discovered a Killdeer nest with four eggs in a gravel lot, and we often see an adult incubating when we drive by.
On another occasion, we saw a group of approximately 400 migrating American Golden-Plovers in a field! A few of them were even in breeding plumage. We have also seen a Loggerhead Shrike, and a Great-horned Owl with two fledglings.