On the subject of banding and satellite tracking

To: Birding Aus <>
Subject: On the subject of banding and satellite tracking
From: Laurie Knight <>
Date: Sat, 18 Oct 2014 13:31:04 +1000
Banded Stilts have been shown to be speedy and accurate fliers between 
ephemeral water bodies


Regards, Laurie.

On 17 Oct 2014, at 5:08 pm, Damien Farine <> wrote:

> Ian,
> As I mentioned in my previous post, these kinds of debates/questions are 
> important to raise now and again to encourage banders to reflect on what 
> goals their effects are achieving. 
> However, these sorts of emails are not particularly useful as they provide 
> only opinions and emotions, rather than making a contribution based on 
> evidence. Take your comparison of the effects of photography to bird banding. 
> Whilst the effect of a photographer flushing a bird may appear to be minor to 
> the perpetrator, the repeated effects of these sort of disturbances week 
> after week by hundreds or thousands of photographers may have profound 
> impacts individual bird's perception of risk, resulting in changes in its 
> behaviour that can affect how much it forages and subsequently its 
> reproductive success. So far I have been 'hand-waving', but there are 
> published studies, for example on European oystercatchers, that show direct 
> evidence for this. Further, many studies have demonstrated very clearly that 
> birds with greater perceived risk suffer negative physiological effects that 
> can reduce survival via a range of mechanisms. No one is claiming that 
> banding doesn't have some impact on the particular individuals that are 
> captured and banded, but frequent disturbances (including walking dogs, etc.) 
> can have impact on tens or hundreds of individual birds each time a 
> disturbance occurs, and, as a result, change behavioural patterns at a much 
> larger scale. This effect should not be under-estimated, or brushed away with 
> a feather duster.
> The arguments you put forward are also entirely restricted to waders, whereas 
> the original posting was about a trip to mallee habitat. There are many good 
> studies that can demonstrate there is very little long-term impact of banding 
> on individual birds. In one of my research sites, we have tracked the same 
> birds year-in year-out building nests, feeding young, and so on with no 
> adverse effects. For example, of the 63 birds we colour-banded in the initial 
> cohort in 2010, we resighted every single bird multiple times in subsequent 
> years (they sometimes disappear for months or years, only to mysteriously 
> return - with all appendages intact). Sure the capturing and banding events 
> were stressful, but our priority is to minimise the impact of this, and I 
> think our data suggests we do a very good job of it. 
> I would be very surprised if banding shorebirds would make any contributions 
> to the decline of waders. If you are concerned you could request the data 
> from those involved in the studies and do an analysis on it to provide 
> evidence either for or against this. Even better, why not fund (or raise 
> money for) a scholarship for a graduate student to investigate this question 
> in detail by performing experiments to get at the causal factors?
> I was asked by Steve Read for more information by listing published studies. 
> For the purpose of promoting a constructive debate, I have pasted my reply 
> below.
> One final point is that arguments based around the need for science to have 
> immediate deliverable impacts (i.e. banding should help save birds) are 
> extremely detrimental to the future of science (sadly this is the view of our 
> current government). Almost all the scientific knowledge we have is built up 
> from discovery science. This is research done to address what can appear as 
> narrow goals, but is usually framed in a broader set of hypotheses. Thus, 
> what we should not be asking if 'banding will help save birds', but rather if 
> 'banding will continue to contribute to the knowledge we need to help in the 
> conservation of birds'. I think the answer to the latter is a resounding YES.
> I might close off by indulging in mentioning that while writing this reply, a 
> Great horned owl has been calling outside my window. Last week it was a 
> Western screech-owl calling from the same tree. 

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