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Bird Banding

St. Andrews Bird Banding Station

The St. Andrews Bird Band Station (StABBS) was started by Tracey Dean in 1989 on the Huntsman Marine campus. StABBS has operated every year since then with nearly 30,000 songbirds banded representing more than 100 migratory species. These totals secures the distinction for StABBS as the longest-running and most productive bird banding station in all of New Brunswick!
In earlier years, StABBS banded from May to October allowing it to contribute summer breeding season data to the Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship Program. In 2001, with support from Birds Canada, our efforts collected data within a daily fall coverage project and met the requirements to be an associate member of the
Canadian Migration Monitoring Network (CMMN). These efforts have continued since then, with expanded support from New Brunswick Wildlife Trust Fund (NBWTF), to monitor the Fall songbird migration on an annual basis. StABBS continues to be the only New Brunswick network station to this nation-wide CMMN songbird-monitoring program (station #23).
Primary funding to operate StABBS annually continues to be received from the New Brunswick Wildlife Trust Fund and Huntsman Marine. Birds Canada also provides support and promotion from a distance through their network.
Established bird banding stations provide exceptional hands-on learning opportunities for new banders and wildlife technicians/biologists. Experienced, well qualified volunteers (paid by stipend + accommodations) are also essential to operating a station like StABBS and we continue to attract great applicants each year to select high quality helpers who ensure professional data collection while maintaining the highest quality songbird welfare. We also look forward to offering special access to visiting school groups and Huntsman Marine Members are given an opportunity to observe on a couple of mornings each Fall so they are able to share in the bird banding experience while learning about mark-recapture research and how this applies to our monitoring efforts.
If you are inspired to support Huntsman efforts towards biodiversity research and bird banding then please 
donate or choose other ways to support the Huntsman mission today!


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Why conduct bird banding?


Bird banding falls within a class of ecological research methodology referred to as mark-recapture studies. Monitoring songbirds that breed in the Canadian northern boreal forests is a challenge but one that can be addressed by bird experts by banding individuals to collect vital scientific data to gain insights on population trends and changes to the environments in which birds live. Catching birds in mist nets is a slow, but methodical way to collect exact data about individual birds – species, age, sex, body condition (fat, weight), feathers (age, wear) and moult patterns. Banding stations are long term initiatives that record data on a wide diversity of species. Each species has a different lifestyle and migration pattern, and meaningful trends become clearer as the data base expands each year. The information that comes from bird banding stations can never be duplicated. Every bird captured adds something to our knowledge of that species and the migration pattern in a specific year.


On average, 340,000 birds are banded in Canada and 860,000 birds are banded in the United States each year. These birds contribute to research that help to:


  • monitor bird populations and rates of survival

  • monitor ecosystem health

  • set regulations for hunted species

  • monitor endangered species

  • maintain longevity records


Results from bird banding research have provided a longevity record for the ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) to be 9 years 2 months while that of the mourning dove (Zenaida macroura) to be 30 years 4 months!


Bird banding is a scientific technique that requires expertise and skill usually gained over many years of study and field experience. A bird banding station requires special permits, specialized equipment and a trained crew of field assistants. To participate in bird banding activities, you must apply for a Scientific Permit to Capture and Band Migratory Birds. Generally, people with banding permits are professional ornithologists, biologists, wildlife technicians, or non-professional ornithologists who undertake specific studies.


People interested in banding birds begin as volunteer banders or students under the direct supervision and training of an experienced permitted bander. Once they have gained the necessary skills and have demonstrated competency in record keeping, ethical capture and handling, bird identification, ageing, sexing, and banding, they may apply for a sub-permit to work on a specific project.


You can also do your part and contribute to conservation efforts by reporting bird bands when you see a marked bird by calling toll-free 1-800-327-BAND (2263) to leave a message or online at


Information to include:

  • number sequence on the metal band

  • other markers (if applicable) such as neck collar, wing tag, web tag, colour band, leg flag, geolocator (including alphanumeric code, colour and location of each marker)

  • species, sex and age of the bird (if known)

  • how the band number was obtained (bird watching, shot, found dead, injured, or trapped)

  • condition of the bird (alive, dead, in captivity)

  • date the band number was obtained and exact location

  • any other information (behaviour, other birds, time of day, etc.)

  • if you are unsure of any bands or did not see all parts of both legs clearly, indicate this in the report

  • your name, address, telephone number and email address to receive a certificate of appreciation with details related to your reported bird


What do we do?


Huntsman Marine holds a bird banding station permit issued by the Bird Banding Office within the Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment and Climate Change Canada. The lead bird bander must have demonstrated experience to take on the responsibility of operating a station and holds a sub-permit. This tandem permit process ensures both the organization and the lead bird bander are responsible for the health and care of all the birds, the quality of the data collected, and the training of any volunteers.


StABBS regularly uses seven mist nets (each measuring 12 m long x 2.5 m high with a mesh size of 32 mm) that are designed to catch small birds up to the size of a robin or jay. The mist nets are opened every day the weather permits, from late August until late October. The workday starts at dawn with unfurling and opening the nets. The nets are checked every 20-30 minutes with the aim of having all nets open for five to six hours. The nets are always opened and closed in the same order to provide a similar duration to catch birds. Days off can be taken when there is inclement weather that makes it unsuitable for bird movement and banding.


Every bird captured is gently removed from the mist net then taken to the “central banding station” table to be examined. Each individual bird is identified, banded with a regular Canadian Wildlife Service aluminum band, aged, sexed, measured, weighed and given a fat score. Characteristics about its plumage is also graded (e.g., feather wear, moult condition, moult limits, etc.).


Where does all of our data go?


The following data is summarized on the Daily Banding Log:

  • total number of birds banded

  • total number of birds recaptured

  • total number of birds released unbanded

  • Grand Total = Total banded + Total recaptured + Total unbanded

  • estimated totals of all bird species in the banding area – EDT

  • net hours (which nets open, when and for how long)

  • weather (basic observations with codes)

  • interesting non-bird observations

  • station activity – visitors, banding demonstration, etc.


In the field, the banding data is recorded on paper in the “Banding Book.” On a regular basis it is entered into Bandit, a government banding computer program. At the end of the year, the data is submitted electronically to the Canadian Bird Banding Office and shared with the United States Geological Survey. Species-specific data is also submitted to the CMMN. The original data sheets are stored at Huntsman Marine along with the entered data files.

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