Saturday, 13 July 2013

Banded Babies

I am always looking for unique opportunities for my family to interact with nature. Several years ago I discovered the world of bird banding and (because of our love of birds around here) ever since we then we have been hooked. Bird banding is described as “The practice of catching birds, marking them with an identifying band around the leg, and then releasing them.”  Scientists rely on banding to learn about bird behavior, migration patterns, etc.

Twice in July (in Ottawa) the public is welcome to be a part of banding Purple Martins, Canada's largest swallow. Purple Martins are community birds and there are two very large Martin bird houses by the Ottawa River that were built by a man named Peter who cares for the birds and bands them with the Innis Point Bird Observatory (see their facebook page here). This morning two of my kids & I ventured out to be a part of the action and we were delighted to see, hold and feed some new born baby Purple Martins.  Here is our story in pictures, and a few words...

We arrived and watched the parents go to and fro from their nests which are located in these homes (the male is the darker bird):

Peter lowered the first house down to have access to the baby birds:

As he opened each door, we were able to see the amazing treasures that were hidden inside:

We saw babies at all stages of development.  These little guys were only two days old!

They were so tiny and could not even yet see, but if you look closely you can see their feathers beginning (look at the head and the "wing")...

These were a few days older, still bunched up in their nests:

This one was almost ready to leave the nest:

It was amazing to watch as Peter fed the tiny birds ... he gave the one below a dragonfly that was nearly half its size & it had no trouble eating it!

And a little bit of water to wash down their meal:

 We were able to hold and handle the babies.  Here my son is trying to feed one of them:

We watched as he carefully banded the older babies:

Here Peter was checking its size to correctly assess the age:

We learned about some of their challenges ... blowflies lay their eggs in the nests and the larvae suck the baby birds' blood for food.  Peter checks each nest several times a week and cleans out all the larvae.

 Once the whole house was cleaned and the babies were cared for and banded, Peter raised it back up to its full height and the parents happily returned home:

Thanks so much to the IPBO for a great experience this morning! If this interests you, there is likely a bird observatory near you that you could get involved with.

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  1. Oh my Goodness... Thank you for posting the link to your blog here.... so interesting... really enjoyed visiting the birds....


  2. What an amazing experience. Thanks so much for sharing!