Banding a Song Sparrow

This morning we attended a bird banding demonstration held at Nippersink Forest Preserve. Two mist nets were set up by researchers from CLC including professor and bander Cindy Trombino. Her team is working at Rollins Savanna this season as part of the MAPS (Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship) program. We actually saw them from a distance the other day on a walk, where they had set up signs to announce their presence.

Banding Sign

At the demonstration today we first learned about the banding process and why birds are banded as an aid to research. We also got to see tools of the trade, including detailed guide books, pliers and the bands themselves.

Banding Tools

The first couple of times the nets were checked, there were no birds. It was decided to move one of the nets to a different location and soon thereafter a Song Sparrow was caught. Here’s a photo of the net before it was moved:

Mist Net

Cindy showed us how the birds are removed from the net. Carefully removing the bird from the tangles of the net is usually the most difficult part of the process. In the video you can hear her mention that Northern Cardinals are notorious biters when being handled.


The Song Sparrow was brought to the work table in a bag where it was then banded and processed. After banding the next step is to try to age and sex the bird. To age the bird, feather wear and skull condition are two of the criteria checked, and these were the factors Cindy used to determine the bird was a hatch year bird.


Next Peter Pyle’s Identification Guide to North American Birds was consulted to determine how to sex the bird. According to the book, sexing a first year Song Sparrow is not possible. The sparrow was then weighed and measured.


Lastly it was time for a close-up (using the ‘photography hold’ as opposed to the ‘bander’s hold’ shown above).


Then the bird was released, with the help of two girls that attended the demonstration.


We learned from Cindy that they will be banding at Rollins again on Tuesday and we are welcome to observe – which we really look forward to!

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