A Band of Birders & Others

To: Greg and Val Clancy <>
Subject: A Band of Birders & Others
From: Ian May <>
Date: Mon, 20 Oct 2014 19:51:57 +1100
Hi all

Adverse impacts from banding local passerines is not comparable to the destruction caused by canon netting and marking small long distant migratory waders such as Stints, Curlew Sandpiper, Red Knot or Sanderling etc etc.. with multiple combinations of large brightly coloured leg flags.

The debate should be about the main problem; serious impacts and losses caused to rare and endangered migratory birds from destructive banding practices i.e.. organised mass bird trapping using canon nets and then, leg flagging, especially multiple leg flagging and banding of many individuals. Apart from the well documented trauma from canon netting, physical injury to birds, site feeding aversion, roosting site disturbance etc etc; there are multiple hidden impacts to the subjects caused by leg flagging. Tangling, fatigue, disadvantage to feed competitively, predator attraction, impeding flight maneuverability, effect on long distant flight aerodynamics and behavior interactions; these are just a few of the questions that should be answered before any more wader leg flagging/banding is permitted

Resulting from organised "mass targeting of waders" at strategic bird migration hot spots, the affect is no longer on a small percentage of individuals; affected birds comprise a large percentage of the world population. So called ringing stations and banding sites are dotted across the planet and there appear to be no real protected areas offering any protection for waders from destructive banding practices..

Ian May
St Helens


Greg and Val Clancy wrote:

I, like Damien, was greatly concerned at the unsubstantiated claims made by Geoff and although I was thinking that it was better to leave sleeping dogs lie these claims could not be left unchallenged. Damien has done a great job in doing this but I know that people who have an irrational hatred for something will not be swayed by facts. However I will provide some more facts and some personal examples. To obtain an A class bird banding licence involves banding over 500 birds under the direct supervision of two A class banders. You can't band bird anywhere you want as you have to have a specific project which is not that easy to obtain. Most projects are covered by an animal care and ethics approval and the approving committees usually have a broad representation including animal rights organisations. In addition banders require a state scientific licence with strict conditions and reporting requirements. The Australian Bird and Bat Banding Scheme in Canberra maintains a database of all birds banded and advises members of the public of banding details when banded birds are found. Banding allows the distances moved by birds to be accurately determined as well as recoding how long they live. Prior to banding studies scientists thought that due to their high metabolic rates small birds would only be able to live for about 5 or 6 years. Banding has shown that small passerines can live as long as 18 years - I personally retrapped a White-browed Scrubwren at that age - and larger birds such as Oystercatchers have reached 30 years. The details for each species banded in Australia can be found on the Australian Bird and Bat Banding Scheme's website. The longest distance recorded and the longest time between banding and recovery are also presented for each species. This is worth reading. The fact that we are retrapping birds many years after banding and sometimes a number of times over the years indicates that the stress of banding is minimal. An example of how relaxed birds are when being handled is while handling a honeyeater a fly landed on my hand and the bird casually reached over and snapped the fly in its bill. On another occasion a Lewin's Honeyeater that I released flopped to the ground. I was a little concerned at first but what it was dong was hopping over to a fruit of the Strangler Fig that had fallen to the ground. It ate its fill and flew off strongly a few minutes later. People who cannot handle birds with care will not get a licence to band. The welfare of the birds is always paramount in banding activities. In the rare instance that a problem arises band sizes, banding techniques etc. are reviewed. Some species are not allowed to be banded because of problems with bands.

So in summary Geoff you can see that banders don't just race around the country banding birds willy-nilly and unduly stressing birds. Banding is a heavy regulated activity that requires a great commitment from the bander who also spends hours of his/her own time and usually covers all travelling and equipment expenses because banders do care about the welfare of birds and do regularly think about the positives and negatives of their activities. It is good to know that people care about the welfare of our birds but if you don't like banding then don't participate in it but please stop trying to undermine, with unsubstantiated claims, an important activity which is contributing significantly to our knowledge of birds.


Dr Greg. P. Clancy
Ecologist and Birding-wildlife Guide
| PO Box 63 Coutts Crossing NSW 2460
| 02 6649 3153  | 0429 601 960

-----Original Message----- From: Damien Farine
Sent: Monday, October 20, 2014 4:03 AM
To: Geoffrey Allan Jones ; 
Subject: Re: [Birding-Aus] A Band of Birders & Others

Firstly: my motivation for continuing on this debate is that there is obviously a general lack of awareness about many issues and benefits of studying birds, combined with some deep concerns about the welfare of doing this.
Geoff,A few answers to your questions.
First, there has been extensive research on the effects of banding. For example here is a nice study relating to waders by some very well-regarded researchers: Some studies will also report detrimental effects in order to encourage avoiding that technique for a particular species. These make recommendations that are then generally enforced by the banding office. I think that the main issue with this debate stems from people being opposed to cannon netting. Let me again re-assure you that cannon netting is rare. As far as I know, only a handful of people are even licensed to do it, and these people are typically involved in active research. I don't have experience with shorebirds, but it is exceedingly rare that a bird is injured in a mist-net (rates of self-injury must be less than 1/10000). One way that birds are killed is by predators while caught in a net (in this case it happens very fast). This is avoidable by keeping a good lookout. Birds are not flushed into mist-nets. In general, banders rely on placing mist-nets in flyways, hoping to catch birds as they move through the landscape. Birds are very rarely 'jabbed' for blood samples - this is really only done for very targeted studies (and becoming rarer as techniques are enabling more and more data to be extracted from foecal samples). In many cases, banding is important for keeping track of the actual population size. I suspect that this is what is being done with the orange-bellied parrots. No one claims that banding helps the birds survive - again I re-iterate that conservation is achieved by implementing actions based on knowledge, and knowledge can only be gained by research. Now what I find most disturbing about your post is the use of terms such as 'so-called sake of research'. The political climate in Australia is totally decimating science. There is almost no money left for basic exploratory/discovery research. Yet this is the foundation of our knowledge. The fact that, in this country, even people that are obviously interested in these issues and identify as nature-lovers do not support scientific endeavour is simply frightening. For example, studying the response of common species to different environmental changes tells us a great deal more than studying rare or endangered species - and we should be encouraging all possible avenues of enquiry in these times of massive change. Instead, we are moving towards a model where only science with a direct application is viewed as important - both in terms of government research but also increasingly in the eyes of the general public. As I stated in my first post - the vast majority of birds that are banded are part of active research targeted at gaining knowledge about various species. There have been hundreds of PhD students that have studied the ecology and conservation biology of largely unknown Australian species. This information is money in the bank, but is generally only achievable by having each individual uniquely identifiable. Hence, unlike shooting birds, which was based largely on describing species and their distribution, banding enables us to collect a wealth of knowledge that, one day, may be invaluable. I think that, before criticising banding in general, it may be helpful to find ways to help build understanding surrounding scientific activities so that people can make informed decisions. I know that most universities in Australia allow the public to attend many of the seminars they run. Approaching biology and ecology departments at a local university is one way getting more exposure to some of the great work being done out there. Sadly, in Australia there is very little media coverage of discovery science (unlike say on the BBC:

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