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
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
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
Graeme Chapman ( graemechapman.com.au)
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