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Thursday, January 05, 2012

Another Banded Bird

Over the past 2 winters I've started looking more closely at our local gulls. One reason is that they are extremely abundant along the coast making them difficult to ignore. The other reason is that there is always the off chance that I'll spot a rare or unusual species in an otherwise typical field of black, white and gray seabirds. On any weekend it is not unusual to see several thousand, mostly Ring-billed Gulls sitting on the sand at Coney Island from the Steeplechase Pier to West 37th Street.

A couple of weeks ago I was walking in the sand towards West 37th Street, stopping every few blocks to scan the flocks of gulls with my bins. The vast majority of the birds were Ring-billed Gulls, but there were also smaller numbers of Herring Gulls and Great Black-backed Gulls mixed in with them. At around West 29th Street a gull with something blue on its leg caught my eye so I set my tripod in the sand and focused my scope on the bird. It looked like a ring-billed, but I wasn't completely certain because it was sleeping with its head tucked under its wing. Eventually it popped its head up. The bird was unmistakeably a Ring-billed Gull and it had two bands on its legs. The blue band was labeled in white letters "PF2". It also had a silver metal Federal band on the left leg, which I could not read. I made a mental note of the closest street and continued down the beach.

That night I went online to the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center Bird Banding Laboratory website. They have a great page where one can report banded bird observations. I entered the data and less than a week later received this Certificate of Appreciation:

The information on the form also included where the bird had been banded. I plugged the provided longitude and latitude into Google Earth and discovered that this Ring-billed Gull was netted and banded about 18 miles north of Montreal on the Saint Lawrence River. It's not nearly as impressive a distance as the banded Red Knot I spotted on Dead Horse Bay, but a 381 mile flight, just to party with the locals in Coney Island is still pretty cool.


Starz723 said...

I love to send in band numbers when possible and the certificate of appreciation is a nice touch. So if you see a banded bird, try your best to jot the color/s of the band, the numbers, both legs, one leg, in the case of a Canada Goose the neck has a collar. I have received a few certificates now all for Canada Geese. Its always a thrill to find out where the bird has migrated from. If you dont have pen & paper, jot it down on your cell phone. Your are helping science!
Marge Raymond
P.S. I found two leg bones that were banded under a Great Horned Owl Roost inside a pellet. The homing pigeon never made it home :(

JFG said...

You can learn more about this banding program at

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