Bird banding for conservation

Sharp-shinned hawk. Photo by Tara Beveroth, INHS.

by Danielle Ruffatto, Prairie Research Institute

The Phillips Tract Migratory Bird Banding Station in Urbana, Illinois, is up and running for the spring season! It is one of many Midwest Migration Network stations “banding” together to better understand landbird migration and habitat use.

Established in fall 2019, the Phillips Tract banding station is run by a dedicated team of Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS) scientists, University of Illinois scientists, and graduate students who readily volunteer their time and ornithological expertise. Sometimes undergraduate students help out, too, to gain experience.

white-throated sparrow
White-throated sparrow. Photo by Tara Beveroth, INHS.

The volunteers gather at Phillips Tract each spring and fall—federal permits in place—to band and collect data on migratory landbirds. To date, they have banded 1,711 birds representing 72 species. The top five most banded species are the Swainson’s Thrush, White-throated Sparrow, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Ovenbird, and American Robin.

The Phillips Tract team submits their banding data to the USGS Bird Banding Laboratory—a program established in 1920 that collects, curates, archives, and distributes data to support science-based decision making for bird conservation and management.

Migratory bird data from Phillip’s Tract and other Midwest Migration Network banding stations provide insight into how birds migrate and when and where they choose to stop to rest and refuel. These data also shed light on species’ natural history, habitat characteristics that may be important for birds choosing stopover habitat, and the annual life cycles of species we know little about.

In the wake of a rapidly changing climate, decision makers need Midwest Migration Network data to plan and implement the best conservation and management practices possible for migratory landbirds, particularly species of concern. Ideally, these data can be used to identify, enhance, and protect critical stopover habitat for migratory species—habitat that’s essential for these birds’ continued reproductive success and survival.

Be on the lookout for more updates from the Phillips Tract banding station through the spring season!

northern flicker and brown thrasher
Northern flicker (left) and brown thrasher (right). Photos by Tara Beveroth, INHS.
indigo bunting
Indigo bunting. Photo by Tara Beveroth, INHS.
collage of four birds
Red-bellied woodpecker (top left), hermit thrush (top right), fox sparrow (bottom left), and field sparrow (bottom right). Photos by Tara Beveroth, INHS.

This story first appeared on the INHS Behind the Scenes blog. Read the original story.

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