Recreation

Bird is the word: Johnson County bird banders to hold educational event

Public invited to see banding, tracking process

A chestnut-sided warbler, pictured above, may be just one of many warbler species captured and banded during an event on Saturday, Sept. 22, at the Johnson County Conservation Education Center. Bird Banders will place a lightweight aluminum band on each bird to be used for tracking. (Arlen Breiholz and Johnson County Conservation).
A chestnut-sided warbler, pictured above, may be just one of many warbler species captured and banded during an event on Saturday, Sept. 22, at the Johnson County Conservation Education Center. Bird Banders will place a lightweight aluminum band on each bird to be used for tracking. (Arlen Breiholz and Johnson County Conservation).

IOWA CITY — Birds in a local park soon will have a new accessory that will help naturalists study them, thanks to an upcoming Johnson County Conservation event.

Birds from F.W. Kent Park will be banded with the hopes of surveying the local bird populations in the park. The county is partnering with federally licensed bird banders for a public event next Saturday to demonstrate banding techniques and explain feather and behavior characteristics.

During the event, bird banders will fasten small lightweight strips of aluminum to the bird with the intention the strips will stay on for life. The birds are tracked again during recaptures, said Mark Bowman, a bird bander.

“Recaptures provide knowledge as to how long particular bird species live and how far they travel during migration,” Bowman said,

Some of the most valuable information that can be gathered with bird banding is the abundance of breeding birds in the park, such as American goldfinches, common yellowthroats and indigo buntings.

Banding also can be used to track the birds who use Kent Park as a migratory stopover habitat. Some of those species can include the Tennessee warbler, Swainson’s thrush and the threatened golden-winged warbler, Bowman said.

Kent Park was chosen for the project because it “included some areas of scrub — somewhat dense growth of shrubs, trees and woodland wildflowers — that were off the beaten path and full of migrant birds,” Bowman said. The study now is in its fourth year.

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During the event, bird banders ensure the safe handling of the birds thanks to guidelines set by an organization called the North American Banding Council. To safely capture the birds, the bird banders use a particular net, called a mist net, that birds will accidentally fly into.

“The nets are very large — about 8 feet high and over 40 feet long — yet, they are made of a mesh about as fine as a hair net that a chef might use,” Bowman said. “They are called ‘mist nets’ because they are hard to see, especially so for a bird in flight.”

Those who are interested in the bird banding process or seeing birds up close can attend any time from 9 a.m. to noon on Sat. 22 at the Conservation Education Center, 2048 Hwy. 6 NW, Oxford.

l Comments: (319) 339-3172; maddy.arnold@thegazette.com

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