Banding helps birds

| Monday, July 21, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Marlene Condon's column “Birders are turning into raptors” misses the mark. Birding probably has brought more people into the fold of nature lovers than any other hobby, leading to the steady increase in legal protection for natural areas. We cannot move wisely or prioritize our goals without sound biological data derived from continent-wide bird banding programs that Condon criticizes.

Banding is executed under federal license by highly trained and experienced biologists, with the health and safety of the birds being the foremost concern. Moreover, banding laboratories often support important research that can be done nowhere else.

At Powdermill Nature Reserve, we record birds captured during banding to build a library of nocturnal flight calls that is used to assess nighttime migrations and direct the placement of wind turbines to areas that birds do not use as flyways. Additionally, we test many species of birds to measure how well they see various experimental glass formulas, helping to develop windows that birds can see and thus avoid lethal collisions.

Bird banding and associated programs not only help us understand birds and make conservation decisions, but can also help make technology more bird-friendly.

John W. Wenzel & Luke DeGroote

The writers, respectively, direct the Carnegie Museum of Natural History's Powdermill Nature Reserve in Rector, Westmoreland County, and manage its bird banding lab.

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