Category Archives: Banding

Headed South from Jekyll

One week ago we were on Jekyll Island and took the opportunity to visit The Jekyll Island Banding Station – JIBS. This was a great treat, and the folks who volunteer to collect data on birds migrating south were very gracious with their time and information.

White-eyed Vireo - Vireo griseus Jekyll Island, GA - October, 2016

White-eyed Vireo – Vireo griseus – Banding Station on Jekyll Island, GA – October, 2016

We talked with Evan Pitman, a third-generation bander, who is heading the effort this year. He told us that they have been banding birds in this location since 1978 – 38 years.   From 1978 until 2000 it was run by Don and Doris Coors, and then it was picked up by his father.

Blackpoll Warbler - Steophaga striata Jekyll Island, GA - October, 2016

Blackpoll Warbler – Steophaga striata

Evan and the JIBS volunteers catch migratory songbirds in mist nets and then place very light-weight identification tags on them.  This enables them to monitor specific species, track individual birds, and collect health information as birds gain mass and fat for migration further south. Some birds are coming to stay, and some birds are just passing through.

Evan told us that in previous years with more people and nets (as many as 27), they banded 2,700 birds one season.  This year they have 17 nets and expect to band about 1,500 birds.  They’re trying to expand the season from 3 weeks to 4 weeks in order to collect more data.

This location is in the critical path for many of our migrants so JIBS is able to monitor the long-term health of specific species as well as overall numbers.  Audubon lists Jekyll Island as an Important Bird Area and says that since 1978, over 40,000 birds have been banded.

We’re lucky to have many of these same birds pass through our area, including Summer Tanagers, vireos, grosbeaks, and many species of warbler.

References and Additional Information

[1]  Coastal Birding Georgia blog: Banding on Jekyll Island
[2]  Audubon:  Important Bird Areas – Jekyll Island Georgia

Science in the Backyard

installing the netFor the second year, Stella and Jack Wissner have hosted representatives from the Smithsonian’s Migratory Bird Center and Neighborhood Nestwatch Program.  Stella is a master birder and an active member of Atlanta Audubon.

This past Sunday Adam Eichenwald and Julie Downs, Smithsonian representatives, arrived at 6:30 AM. Adam has a Bachelor’s degree in Biology and Environmental Science from Bowdoin in Maine, and Julie is an Auburn graduate with a Bachelor’s in Wildlife Ecology and Management.

Cardinal in netThey went straight to work and set up two nets in Stella and Jack’s back yard.  The nets are a few feet off the ground, about 20 feet long and 6 feet high, and are made of very fine black webbing which makes them practically invisible.  Then everybody waits until a bird flies into the net.

BandingVery carefully a captured bird is extracted, measured, weighed, banded and released.  The results are recorded and entered into the Smithsonian’s Migratory Bird Program database and a copy is given to Stella and Jack.  Then all year, as they watch birds come to their feeders, they can tell if it’s one that they helped identify.  They forward information on their sightings back to the Smithsonian.


As if that weren’t enough, two active nests were discovered in the shrubbery.  One in the back yard had two Eastern Towhee chicks, and a second in a shrub in their neighbor’s yard had three Northern Mockingbird eggs. Towhee chicks Northern Mockingbird Eggs

Being in the Wissner’s back yard is like being in a hardwood forest, full of bird song and activity.  Sunday morning the weather was perfect, and 5 birds were banded.  Great morning!  Thanks Stella, Jack, Adam and Julie for the opportunity to observe this remarkable activity.