My Canadian Gull: Reporting Banded Birds

Last week I photographed this Ring-billed Gull at Nickerson Beach in New York. Nickerson is in Lido Beach, on Long Island’s south shore,  just east of Long Beach. It’s a big draw to nature and wildlife photographers because it features protected nesting areas for birds such as Piping Plovers, Oystercatchers, Terns, and Skimmers.

When I got home and looked at the gull photos, I was curious about the bands on its legs. I did a Google search and learned about a place to report sightings of banded birds: it’s the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center Bird Banding Laboratory: http://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/BBL/bblretrv/ 

The site has a step-by-step guide (available in English, French, and Spanish) to help gather information to log the sighting into a database maintained cooperatively by the USGS Bird Banding Laboratory and Canadian Wildlife Service, Bird Banding Office. There are more than 4 million band encounter records in this database, according to the Patuxent site. These records are used to “document movements, longevity, and sources of mortality for North America’s migratory birds. This information is used to monitor populations, set hunting regulations, restore endangered species, study effects of environmental contaminants, and address such issues as Avian Influenza, bird hazards at airports, and crop depredations.”

The Ring-billed Gull I saw had a metal band on its right leg and a yellow tag with black letters on its left leg. I made my report using the yellow band, because I couldn’t read the metal one; however, I sent an enlarged image of the metal band in case that would assist with identification.

Ring-billed Gull: banded in Canada on 4/23/09; encountered on a Long Island, NY, beach on 7/16/13.

Ring-billed Gull: banded in Quebec, Canada, on 4/23/09; encountered on a Long Island, NY, beach on 7/16/13.

I learned that “my” gull was banded in Canada back in 2009! Lots of other cool information was included in a Certificate of Appreciation offered to banding reporters. Here’s the one I received:

USGS Certificate of Appreciation for reporting the sighting of a banded bird.

USGS Certificate of Appreciation for reporting the sighting of a banded bird.

This is my first report of a banded bird, but I look forward to reporting more as I find them!

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4 thoughts on “My Canadian Gull: Reporting Banded Birds

    • Thanks! When I first began photographing birds a while ago, I learned about bird tags; however, I typically can’t read the tag/band until I get home and process the images. Even then, there may not be enough detail in the photo to read it.

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