Bird banding

To: Graeme Chapman <>
Subject: Bird banding
From: Damien Farine <>
Date: Mon, 20 Oct 2014 11:04:42 +1100
Great post and thanks for contributing. I agree that there is great variance in 
how responsible different banders are. This is largely what prompted my 
original support for this debate because I really think that i) banders should 
frequently reflect on what they are achieving and what their motivations are 
for doing what they do, and ii) because I actually think that the system should 
include some re-evaluation of projects and even licenses. A great deal of 
importance is placed on initial training, but far less on maintaining best 
Most importantly though, I also believe that most birds that are caught in 
mist-nets are done so as part of active research (here I say birds caught 
rather than bands used, because these projects often have reasonably high 
recapture rates). In these studies, every individual is invaluable, and when 
you've waited 5 years for a particular bird to mature and start providing some 
reproductive data, you'll gladly spend the extra time watching nets rather than 
having a cuppa. 
I'd probably agree with an estimate of a 1% death rate. However, to put that 
into context, all animal testing (such as for medical trials - the only 
research our government seems to be interested in funding) has 100% death rate. 
But, more seriously, this is in line with other animal research (e.g. mammals, and is about at the acceptable rate for animal ethics 
committees (typically 0.5-2% in my experience). Less seriously (perhaps) is 
that this is a drop in the ocean compared to how many chickens are alive at any 
one time and awaiting slaughter (estimated around 19 billion).

> From: 
> Subject: Bird banding
> Date: Mon, 20 Oct 2014 10:06:34 +1100
> CC: 
> To: 
> Hello Damien,
> First of all I agree with what you said in your latest post on Birding-aus , 
> in particular the failure of recent governments in Australia (mainly Federal) 
> to support science and the environment. We should all put our money where our 
> mouth is and support AWC.
>  However I would like to make the odd qualifier.
> I was a professional ornithologist and bird bander all of my working life - 
> without bird banding (in particular individually colour-banded birds) we 
> could not have carried out the research we did.
> During that time, and before when I was a teenager I also banded birds as an 
> amateur in conjunction with many of the leading bird-banders of the era. I  
> have been there and done that. I've also probably seen all the bad things - 
> events that happened that may have been preventable with hindsight,  but 
> nobody's perfect.
> About predators and mist nets. Such deaths are as you say avoidable by 
> keeping a good lookout. People don't!  I have seen nets only checked once 
> every half-hour. By and large I would say amateurs set as many nets as they 
> can, because their measure of success is often how many birds they catch in a 
> session.
> Overall in my experience I would estimate the death rate associated with mist 
> netting as about 1%. All sorts of things happen - Brown Thornbills die in 
> your hand (from shock) - predators ( Catbirds are the worst in rainforest) - 
> I have known of nets left overnight accidentally containing dead birds the 
> next morning -  No 1 mist nets left too long can cause small birds to be so 
> badly tangled that birds can barely fly when released - and finally poorly 
> fitted bands can cause injury, not common but it happens.
> Many bird banders will deny any of this happens but they aren't telling the 
> truth - out in the bush there are no witnesses!
> Now about cannon nets. Wrongly set, or fired when the birds are in the wrong 
> position, cannon nets behead birds. Fortunately few people do and the experts 
> will have learnt by experience, Having to house and process a large number 
> birds in hot weather is a very difficult undertaking. By and large I don't 
> know what the death rate would be, but rest assured there would be one. 
> People are reluctant to report or even talk about this sort of thing. 
> The big question is whether in the name of science, is it worth it? I believe 
> it is so long as it really is science and not just weekend entertainment.  
> Compared with loss of habitat, introduced predators including man, climate 
> change and all the other variables, the negatives of bird banding are a drop 
> in the ocean. 
> Regards
> Graeme Chapman  ( 
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