Category Archives: Banding

Banded Royal Tern at 3rd Avenue Beach in New Smyrna Beach

On January 1st I went birding at some beachside spots in Volusia County. I saw a few banded birds, including this Royal Tern who was loafing in a group of about 30 terns, 5 of which wore metal bands. This bird had a color band, making it easier to identify.

I submitted the sighting to the USGS and received the following certificate, which shows that the bird was banded as a chick in 2019 in Georgia. I love finding banded birds and finding out their history.

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Banded Royal Tern at Smyrna Dunes Park

On January 1st I went birding at some beachside spots in Volusia County. I saw a few banded birds, including this Royal Tern who was loafing in a group of about 10 terns, 4 of which wore metal bands. This bird had a color band, making it easier to identify.

I submitted the sighting to the USGS and received the following certificate, which shows that the bird was banded as a chick in 2021 in Virginia. I love finding banded birds and finding out their history.

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Wing-tagged Black Vulture in the Everglades

While visiting the Everglades with Arthur’s family on October 18th, I saw a wing-tagged Black Vulture at Coot Bay.

Researchers have been monitoring wing-tagged vultures in the Everglades since 2012. The project aims to study vulture activity and behavior as they move across south Florida. Vultures have also been noted to cause damage to parked cars at various spots in the Everglades, though I’m not sure if the wing-tagging study is related.

I sent the tag information on CEH to the Bird Banding Laboratory. The bird was an adult, at least a year old, at the time it was tagged in late 2012. I hadn’t reported a banded bird for a very long time so it was nice to get the certificate emailed to me a few days later.

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Banded, Flagged & Tagged

Red Knot (Calidris canutus)

I found a few banded or marked birds last month. I always find it fun to learn about these specially marked birds, their journeys and life histories. It’s also interesting to learn how scientists are using the data in their studies.

Red Knots on January 5th

On January 5th I walked along the beach at Ponce Inlet for a while during Arthur’s weekly volunteer shift at the Marine Science Center. During my walk I found four lime-green flagged Red Knots. I reported all of these to When flagged birds are in this database, you can see the reported resighting data immediately, which is neat. Here are the birds I found at Ponce Inlet on January 5th:

Red Knot T2T was first captured and banded on May 16, 2008. That means it was at least six and a half years old when I found it! It was banded in New Jersey and subsequently resighted many times, in New Jersey, South Carolina, and Florida.

Red Knot 2E7 was first captured and banded on April 1, 2014, in South Carolina. The bird was reported in Ontario in July of last year before my sighting at Ponce Inlet.

Red Knot (Calidris canutus) 2E7

Red Knot 9PU was first captured and banded on May 14, 2010 in New Jersey. It has since been resighted in New Jersey, Georgia, Delaware, South Carolina, and Florida.

Red Knot 2YJ was first captured and banded on May 16, 2010, just two days after 9PU, at the same location in New Jersey.

Since these birds were all foraging together in a larger flock, I was curious if they have been reported together elsewhere. On November 10, 2011, both 9PU and 2YJ were seen at Wolf Island National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia. On the same day, T2T was still in New Jersey. The following spring, T2T was in South Carolina on April 20, while 2YJ was still down in Florida. On February 14, 2014, 2YJ and 9PU were both reported in Ponce Inlet. There are a few more instances two or more of these birds being reported together. That’s pretty neat!

Wing-tagged Black Vulture at MINWR

On January 10th my parents joined my husband and me for an afternoon at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. We found a wing-tagged Black Vulture. Here’s a terrible photo.


The wing tag reds PXE. The bird was located along Kennedy Parkway close to Wilson’s Corner, loafing with a group of about 12 other vultures. With a quick Google search I found out about an ongoing study of vultures by the NASA Environmental Management Branch. I sent in the information and was thanked for doing so; unfortunately I didn’t learn anything more about this wing-tagged bird but presumably the birds in the study are year-round residents of Merritt Island.

Piping Plovers and more Red Knots on January 19th

On January 19 I again walked the beach at Ponce Inlet while Arthur was volunteering. I found a few more flagged Red Knots and three color banded Piping Plovers.

I reported the Piping Plovers, but I haven’t heard anything back yet.

UPDATE 2/6/15: Luck would have it that just days after I posted this, I heard back from the Great Lakes Piping Plover Conservation Team about all three of these birds. Updates in red:

Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus)

This bird “was captive-reared after his nest washed out in a big wave at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in 2012.” The eggs had to be recovered; 3 of the 4 were found after diligent searching. The eggs hatched and the healthy chicks were raised until they were flighted. They were eventually released close to the site where the nest was washed out. This bird was given the nicknamed “little Cooper”.

Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus)

This is another bird from the Great Lakes Piping Plovers population. It hatched in 2014 at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in Wisconsin.

Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus)

This Piping Plover was hatched in 2009 at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Michigan. Since 2012 she has been seen nesting in Gulliver, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

I also found and reported six different flagged Red Knots in three separate flocks over a 3-mile stretch of beach.

Red Knot 047 was first captured and banded in September 2009 at Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge in Massachusetts.

Red Knot 038 was first captured and banded in September 2009 at Monomoy NWR.

Red Knot 2A1 was first captured and banded in September 2011 at Monomoy NWR.

Red Knot (Calidris canutus) 2A1

Red Knot AV8 was first captured and banded on August 27, 2007, in New Jersey.

Red Knot TNV was first captured and banded in November 2005 in Avalon, New Jersey. This bird is at least ten years old and has been resighted many times over the years up and down the east coast of the United States.

Red Knot V5M was first captured and banded in March 2011 in South Carolina. I’ve seen V5M before, at the end of 2013 during the Daytona Beach CBC.

Finally, also on January 19, I found another bird I’ve seen before. F05 has returned to Volusia shores once again! Now he’s even more famous — he’s been immortalized by Birdorable! ๐Ÿ˜‰

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Daytona Beach CBC Seawatch

Tom Renick Park

On Saturday I joined my friends Harry and Eli for a 10 hour seawatch at Tom Renick Park in Ormond-by-the-Sea. The weather was fine for standing around all day, but calm winds meant little excitement on the birding front. At least the company was swell. The ten hours didn’t pass too slowly. ๐Ÿ˜‰


Eli and Harry have done the seawatch the previous three years, so I was the newbie. I hardly get to the beach and I’ve never done any kind of long-term seawatch like this. The closest I came was a handful of 2-3 hours searches for Razorbills a couple of winters ago in Ponce Inlet. Harry has many hours of seawatching experience, both here in Florida and back in old England.

Eli and I took a couple of walks on the beach to keep from falling asleep — I mean, to count shorebirds! Yes, we went out on a couple of shorebird-counting forays. Right off the bat on the first stroll I spotted a big pink something flying over the Halifax River. It was far and moving fast in the early morning sun. Sometimes big white birds can look pink in the right light, but I got Eli on the bird and even managed to snap this magnificent shot to confirm ID. Roseate Spoonbill was new to the seawatch list — yay me!

Roseate Spoonbill (Platalea ajaja)

We counted 24 Red Knots on our 1+ mile walk south. The flock included Lime Green 4C2, first captured in South Carolina in October 2011. Others have reported this bird in New Jersey, and Georgia. This bird is also radio-tagged.

Red knot (Calidris canutus)

In the afternoon we trained our scopes on some distant fishing trawlers and their groupies, which consisted of gulls, pelicans, gulls, Northern Gannets, and gulls.

fishing trawler

Harry spotted a couple of Parasitic Jaegers in the mix, plus a pair of Glaucous Gulls. I didn’t manage to get on them at all, which was a bummer. So was this find during our morning walk:

Northern Gannet (Morus bassanus)

I didn’t see any bands so I left the bird (Northern Gannet) undisturbed.

A Mourning Dove joined us for a while, perching on a nearby century plant stalk.

Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)

Eli and I had a short walk to the north in the afternoon. We found a pair of Ring-billed Gulls dancing around.

Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis)

Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis)

We found another banded bird, a Ring-billed Gull. I submitted the tag info to the Bird Banding Laboratory. Hopefully I’ll hear back about this bird, too.

Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis)

EDIT: I heard back about this bird. It was first banded in May 2012 as an adult bird hatched in 2009 or earlier. It was banded in Montreal, which is about 1200 miles, as the gull flies, from Ormond-by-the-Sea. Here’s the certificate I got with the information:

banded RBGU

It was a good day out at the beach with my friends and ended with a nice group dinner at a local Chinese spot. I’ll do my last CBC of the season next weekend with Arthur in Ponce Inlet.

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Red Knot FLV5M

At the end of December, I participated in the Daytona CBC (Christmas Bird Count). A stretch of beach was part of my group’s area, most of which we could cover by car. As we drove along four-plus miles of beach, I counted the gulls and terns, while others in the group counted shorebirds and other species.

Red Knots

Among the shorebirds we found a couple of flocks of Red Knots. One of the birds was banded and flagged. I took some photos of the distant bird in rather poor drizzly conditions — and was pleased to later see that the flag’s numbers were readable.

Banded Red Knot

I reported the sighting on and was amazed to find much data about this particular bird’s movements was immediately available to me. No waiting for a response, awesome!

Red Knots have one of the longest migrations of any bird species. Birds in the western hemisphere may travel over 9000 miles, twice a year, between their breeding grounds in the Arctic to their winter homes in southern South America.

The rufa subspecies of the eastern Americas is emperiled, in great part due to its reliance on the availability of horseshoe crab eggs during a critical part of its migration. These birds are the subject of the excellent Nature episode Crash: A Tale of Two Species.

Red Knots

The bird we saw on the CBC was first banded during spring migration, on June 3, 2005, in New Jersey. Since then, this hearty Red Knot has been sighted several times. During the following spring, it was seen again in New Jersey. The next sighting was in the fall of 2009, where FLV5M* apparently spent (at least) nearly two months on the coast of Georgia. Sightings in South Carolina and again New Jersey followed. In March 2011, the Red Knot was captured again (this time in South Carolina) and had its flag replaced (*to the present FLV5M). Sightings continued to come in from New Jersey, Georgia, South Carolina, and once in Delaware. The first Florida sighting was reported at Ormond Beach in January of 2013. Our CBC sighting at Daytona Beach on December 28, 2013, was the first reported December sighting for this bird.

Between its first capture in 2005 and our sighting in December 2013, Red Knot FLV5M had traveled well over 145,000 miles, and possibly many more. All on its own power. Red Knots weigh less than 5 ounces. Isn’t that amazing?!

If you’ve ever seen a flagged shorebird, be sure to report your sighting!

In North America, other species of banded birds can be reported to the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center Bird Banding Laboratory. If you aren’t able to read the entire band, your sighting may still be useful. Do a web search for your species and banding efforts; that’s what I did when I could only partially read the band of a Reddish Egret Arthur and I found on the Keys a couple of years ago.

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Posted in Banding, CBC, Florida, Migration | 1 Comment

Banded Sandhill Crane


On May 10, 2012, I took a hike at my old patch, Rollins Savanna, while visiting my parents in Lake County, Illinois. During my walk I saw a trio of Sandhill Cranes.


The birds were remarkable for two reasons: 1) they were being harassed by a determined Red-winged Blackbird, and 2) one of the cranes was banded. I dutifully reported the sighting.

Banded Sandhill Crane

Two weeks ago, I received this certificate of appreciation. Click the certificate to see full size.


The bird I saw was about three years old at the time and was banded not too far away at Chain O Lakes State Park as a pre-fledgling. How cool is that? This was the first time I reported a banded bird (though since then I reported another and heard back from the bander shortly thereafter). This is the first green certificate I’ve received. ๐Ÿ˜€

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F05: a famous gull

In my last Bird-a-Day Challenge update post, I briefly mentioned the bird I used for February 27th – a Lesser Black-backed Gull. Here is a little more about this special bird, F05. He is famous.

Lesser Black-backed Gull
Famous Larus

Since 2007 this bird has been observed as part of a mated pair breeding on Appledore Island in Maine. This is remarkable because it is only the second record of a Lesser Black-backed Gull (LBBG) breeding in North America, and the first record for the east coast. The female mate is a Herring Gull. Gulls generally tend to be monogamous, though F05 is known to have had at least three mates (along with a bit of drama) since 2007.

F05 and his mate(s) raised chicks that survived to fledge in 2007, 2008, and 2009. After an off year in 2010, F05 and a new mate raised a chick successfully in 2011.

In late January 2009 F05 was first seen wintering on the beach in Daytona Beach Shores, Florida, during the Space Coast Birding Festival.

F05 was seen wintering in Daytona Beach Shores again in 2010, in 2011, and in 2011-12.

After being seen over the winter of 2011-2012 in Florida, F05 was not seen at all during the 2012 summer / breeding season on Appledore Island. He was presumed dead until this January, when Michael Brothers (the original finder in 2009) spotted F05 once more in Daytona Beach Shores. And he was still there on February 27th, when Arthur and I spotted him among the thousands of gulls on the beach that late afternoon.

Gulls at Frank Rendon Park
Find the famous one!

The gulls return to Appledore to begin breeding in May. Time will tell if F05 will join them.

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Banded Reddish Egret on Bahia Honda

In mid-September Arthur and I drove down to the Florida Keys for a few days of camping, birding, and snorkeling. One morning we took a walk along Bahia Honda State Park’s Sandspur Beach before snorkeling. We saw a few birds, including a Reddish Egret who was actively hunting in the surf. The light wasn’t great so I wasn’t planning on taking any photos, but then I noticed the bird was banded. I got out my camera and took a few shots.

banded Reddish Egret

banded Reddish Egret

From my photos, I was able to tell that the last five digits of the band were 24697. With this partial information I went to the USGS Report a Band site to report the sighting. I was surprised that I was unable to submit the form without the full band number. So I did a little Googlin’ and found Clay Green via Heron Conservation. Though he wasn’t banding birds around the Keys, I was hoping he’d be able to send my information on to someone who could use it.

The following reply came back from Dr. Kenneth D. Meyer of Avian Research and Conservation Institute (posted with permission).

We (ARCI) banded this bird on 27 January 2010 on Ohio Key, Florida Keys (near where Amy saw it). Sexed by blood sample as male.

We were deploying satellite transmitters at the time but did not tag this bird because he had a large growth (external, abdomen) which Dr. Marilyn Spalding, a veterinary pathologist, advised may have been a result of a previous nematode infection (Eustrongylides sp.) that had become walled-off.

We have observed the bird several times since then while working in the area, but not recently. Very good to know he’s still alive and in the area. The eight Reddish Egrets that we captured in the lower Keys and tracked by satellite all remained year-round in the area, making habitual seasonal movements of, at most, 30-40 miles.

When captured and when later observed, this bird had several white and gray primaries, wing coverts, and tail feathers (bilateral). I’m wondering if Amy saw this or was able to take any photos.


Here I have to admit that at the time of the sighting I was so excited to a) see a banded bird and b) be able to photograph readable band photos that I didn’t spend nearly enough time just plain observing the dang bird. D’oh. It was behaving in a manner I would consider entirely normal for a Reddish Egret – actively hunting by darting around the shallow water, gingerly avoiding us human observers but acting neither overly wary nor especially confiding, and moving around on the beach as big waders do. I also didn’t notice many odd white feathers on the wings or tail, and I certainly didn’t notice any lesion on the chest. Here are my two best photos of the bird.

banded Reddish Egret

banded Reddish Egret

After seeing my photos, Ken indicated that the lesion had been quite large; it may be out of sight in my photos or it may just be gone.

I was glad to find the group who banded the Reddish Egret (REEG, by the way), and that my information may have been slightly useful. I learned my lesson, too. I am quite content to quietly observe a single bird for an extended period of time… but in this case I got a little bit overexcited about seeing a banded bird. Next time, I need to calm down and do what I enjoy most — observe the bird! After I record that band number, that is!

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Red-cockaded Woodpecker relocation & monitoring

After observing the Red-cockaded Woodpeckers during the early portion of last week’s field trip (see post Looking for Red-cockaded Woodpeckers in Ocala NF), we returned to an abandoned cluster of woodpecker cavities to learn more about how biologists study Red-cockaded Woodpeckers and how they establish new, active clusters.

Monica Folk, our field trip co-leader, is a biologist specializing in endangered species. She worked to reintroduce Red-cockaded Woodpeckers (RCWOs) in the Disney Wilderness Preserve, which now has a sustainable population.

The heart of establishing a new, successful cluster of RCWOs is the artificial nest cavities. Since it takes a male woodpecker up to 4 years to complete one cavity, biologists give the birds a head start by installing pre-made cavities into living pine trees. The cavities are made of solid cedar wood. A woodpecker-sized hole is drilled downward into the wood and then a panel is placed on top to close the box.

Red-cockaded Woodpecker nest box
Cedar nest box with PVC around the opening and wire reinforcement on the front

The hole is cut out of the front and then fitted with a piece of PVC pipe to prevent other woodpeckers (Red-bellieds and Pileateds, primarily) from taking over the box. If this happens, the box is “blown out” and will no longer be used by the RCWOs. Wire mesh is also added to the front of the box to prevent predation and damage by other woodpeckers.

Old RCWO nest box damaged by other woodpeckers

Chainsaws and crowbars are used to carefully cut out the hole in the living tree. The outside of the box is covered with adhesive and then the box is pounded into the tree. To make the cavity more attractive, hammer holes are pounded around the cavity opening to release resin. Once a bit of sawdust is added to the box, it’s ready to house a RCWO.

resin holes
Using the back of a hammer to make holes around the artificial nest cavity

Damaged cavities can be replaced, and cavities used by other species (Eastern Bluebirds and Carolina Chickadees are two species that may use abandoned RCWO cavities) can be cleaned up to make them attractive to the woodpeckers once more. During the demonstration, Monica used a shop vac to clear out bluebird nesting material from an otherwise fine nest box.

Once the requisite number of cavities are set up within a cluster area (10 acres or so, depending on habitat), and the required and desired number of clusters are set up within a reintroduction area, site biologists may receive juvenile birds from established breeding sites. Retrieving birds is a very involved process which requires a lot of prior research and contingencies for a myriad of possible scenarios come “kidnapping” day.

net for capturing Red-cockaded Woodpeckers
A long net is telescoped up to the opening of a RCWO cavity

Birds are captured using long, telescoping nets. The net is placed over an active roosting cavity once the bird is inside for the evening; the tree is disturbed (tapped or shaken) to get the bird to fly out again, this time into the net. The RCWO flies out and eventually lands at the end of the long net. It is then safely removed from the net and then placed into a special box.

RCWO transport box. Notice rainbow-colored “sleeve” which helps prevent escape

The box has a cloth “sleeve” attached around the top. The sleeve allows biologists to open the wooden box and reach in to remove or replace the RCWO without the bird escaping. During the relocation process, the birds are captured at or after sundown, and sleep the night in the box. The next day, starting at sunrise, the birds are hand fed (!!) 3 prey items (ie crickets) every 45 minutes (!!), until sunset. It’s odd that these wild birds will readily accept food in the hand, but their natural biology has them eating nearly constantly every waking moment, so their hunger must override any fear they might have of humans.

Shortly after sunset, the birds are relocated to their new habitat. One young female and one young male are placed into a new cluster. Each bird is put into a cavity, where it sleeps for the night. A screen cover is placed in front of the opening to ensure the RCWO remains inside its cavity until the next morning. The cover is removed remotely from below with a string attached to the screen. RCWOs typically vocalize at waking, and keep in contact with their cluster-mates throughout the day. With this habit, the new birds are able to find each other at first light and hopefully begin foraging and/or exploring the new territory together.

peeper scope
Monica holds a “peeper scope” in retracted position

The woodpeckers are monitored during the breeding season. In the past, biologists had to climb ladders as tall as 40 feet in order to look inside nest cavities. Nest monitoring takes place every 7 days and a biologist may have several clusters to check – that’s a lot of climbing! Today biologists may utilize a “peeper scope” — a camera set up on a long telescoping pole with a monitor or viewfinder at the bottom. The scope is raised up to the level of the nest and gently poked inside.

peeper scope in nest hole
Peeper scope peeping inside a nest cavity

RCWOs may lay up to four eggs. Incubation begins after the second egg is laid; the eggs hatch after just 11 days of incubation. The nest is usually in the male’s cavity. The female will incubate during daylight, where she is fed by the male throughout the day. The male incubates at night (which makes sense — the eggs are in his cavity, after all!).

peeping at a peeper scope monitor
No eggs, just nesting material from an old bluebird nest

Biologists check the nest cavities for eggs. Depending on the number of eggs found, they can calculate when hatching may occur. This is important to know, since the chicks develop quickly. Eleven days after hatching, the chicks are still featherless, but their legs have already grown to their full size. This is when the chicks are banded.

The procedure for retrieving the chicks for banding seems a bit tricky. The nest cavities are permanently installed in the tree; there is no hand-sized opening. Biologists climb up on a ladder and use a small, delicate plastic “noose” to gently pull the chicks, unseen, out of the nest. A simple mirror on a stick is used to check that all hatchlings have been removed from the nest. The chicks are carried down to the ground, banded and measured, and then gently returned back to the nest.

Monica shows the small plastic noose used to extract the chicks

RCWOs at the Ocala NF sites we visited are fitted with five bands each. Three color bands are on one leg, while the other holds the metal federal band and one color band. This means the birds can be monitored without further capture and RCWOs that branch out to new territories can be identified and followed.

It was fascinating to learn about Red-cockaded Woodpecker biology and monitoring. Life bird + learning cool biologist stuff = big win!

NOTE: I’ve composed this post from information that Monica shared with us during the field trip; hopefully I’ve gotten the facts straight but obviously any factual errors here are strictly my own.

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Posted in Banding, Endangered, Festivals & Events, Florida | 2 Comments