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Carnegie Museum of Natural History's banding program a labor of love for avian expert

Sean Stipp
| Sunday, Aug. 2, 2015, 10:30 p.m.
A section of the wing of a Blue-winged Warbler
Sean Stipp | Trib Total Media
A section of the wing of a Blue-winged Warbler
White-throated Sparrow
Sean Stipp | Trib Total Media
White-throated Sparrow
Beak of  an American Woodcock
Sean Stipp | Trib Total Media
Beak of an American Woodcock
Talon of a Red-winged Blackbird
Sean Stipp | Trib Total Media
Talon of a Red-winged Blackbird
Eye of an Red-eyed Vireo
Sean Stipp | Trib Total Media
Eye of an Red-eyed Vireo
Female Red-winged Blackbird
Sean Stipp | Trib Total Media
Female Red-winged Blackbird
Cedar Waxwing taking flight
Sean Stipp | Trib Total Media
Cedar Waxwing taking flight
Tail feathers of a Wilson's Warbler
Sean Stipp | Trib Total Media
Tail feathers of a Wilson's Warbler
Feathers on the back of a Swamp Sparrow
Sean Stipp | Trib Total Media
Feathers on the back of a Swamp Sparrow

You have my word: no birds were harmed in the taking of these photographs.

On the contrary, Luke DeGroote, bird-banding coordinator for the Carnegie Museum of Natural History's Powdermill Nature Reserve, goes to great lengths to ensure that the birds he and his staff study are treated with care.

Everything they do at Powdermill Avian Research Center is for the birds.

DeGroote describes his love for birds: “My family taught me to appreciate nature, but it was a professor who barked out a perfect impersonation of the barred owl and a Brit who never grew tired of searching for kaleidoscopic hummingbirds in the Southwest that helped me fall in love with birds.

“Their amazing balance of form and function, the myriad of colors and unique behavior makes them worth watching, researching and saving.”

Since 1962, the avian center has recorded birds at Powdermill's 2,200-acre biological research station near Rector in Westmoreland County. In addition to banding birds, the staff conducts bioacoustical research and performs flight tunnel research with the hope of reducing bird crashes into windows.

As of May, the center's database included records from more than 560,000 original bandings and nearly 150,000 recaptures of 190 species.

Each day before sunrise, from April through November, gentle mist nets are opened to safely catch the birds. In the lab, researchers identify them by species and data such as wing length and age. The birds are banded with small bracelets before their release.

Their visits last about a minute.

Sean Stipp is a Trib Total Media photographer. Reach him at sstipp@tribweb.com.

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