Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Banding Day 2010! A riveting experience.

It is not everyday that one has the chance to band falcon chicks. Even for those who have banded 'many falcons' the opportunity is rarely passed up. Today a few lucky biologists and assistants banded the falcon chicks that are viewable on the BRI Peregrinecam...and what a successful morning it was! The chicks ranged from 21 to 24 days old. I awoke early with a jittery excitement because I was part of the banding team. I drank a cup of coffee, gathered the last few necessary items and set out to meet our falcon handlers Judy Camuso of Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and Chris Martin of New Hampshire Audubon, along with a few guests who would assist and observe the banding process.

We gathered briefly to discuss the strategy for capturing the falcon chicks and processing them. The plan emerged quickly and once we were set up to band we made our approach to the nest. Support staff held a shovel and a broom high to protect the falcon chick 'handlers' from the dive-bombing adults. Actually, only the male was diving at us in the beginning. The female was set at the nest in fierce defense of her coveted chicks. After a moment or two, Chris encouraged her to leave and swiftly but carefully loaded the chicks into a large cat carrier. Yes, a cat carrier is the perfect size and shape to carry up to five falcon chicks. We then sought cover from the adult falcons in an enclosed room. There was no mistaking the screeches and screams of the adults outside. They wanted their chicks back.

Chris and Judy set to band and I recorded data and band numbers as each chick was processed. The processing went quickly and I think that it is safe to say that all on hand were impressed by how calm the falcon chicks seemed to be despite what would generally be considered a stress inducing situation. The falcon chicks did not appreciate being manhandled but when left to themselves simply sank comfortably into the 'relaxed-resting' pose that we've been watching on our Peregrinecam.

Each bird received a silver U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service band as well as a coded color band (shown below) that was applied using rivets and is unique for any given bird. We used leg size to determine the gender of each bird--even at 24 days old female falcons are larger than males. Today we banded three males and one female.

Judy measured the wing length and bill length of each bird, gave each a good look over for any injuries and then set each bird aside to rest until all were processed. At the end we had a short opportunity for photos before returning the falcons back to the nest tray. The photo below shows the banded falcon chicks. The female is the lower left bird-note that it appears to be the youngest with the fewest growing flight feathers but the largest feet and legs. The entire banding process required just under one hour and could not have gone much more smoothly!

Also, because many parties are involved in this project I want to extend a sincere thank you to the individuals and agencies involved including Judy Camuso (Maine IF&W) and Chris Martin (New Hampshire Audubon). In the photo below Judy and Chris smile with a falcon chick just before returning it to the nest.

Please be in touch if you have questions about these falcons, the banding process, or why we band. This blog post was admittedly rushed to get it to press, there may be more to discuss. We are always happy to share and educate. Enjoy the rest of the journey.

All the best,
Patrick Keenan
BioDiversity Research Institute


  1. Thanks so much for the calm and respectful way you handle the banding of these birds - sparing them much unnecessary trauma and stress - and for sharing your experience with us in the way that you do.

    Always the best to you,


  2. Fund raising idea: Raffle off an opportunity to be an observer.

  3. What a fantastic job...well done. Thanks to all involved, Judy, Chris, Patrick and others. Very surprising to see the size of the chick compared to Chris's hands. You never realize that the chicks are that big, until you have something to compare to.

  4. Thanks BRI for getting the update of the banding and health of the 4 chicks, on your great web site..Its a lot of fun watching the 4 chicks grow and mature....will be interesting to watch them fledge.. tho with out them to watch will be a little sad.. hopefully the ospreys will have chicks , and they will fledge this year.. thank you , ALL !!!!!!!!! for a great job , of helping us all learn , and enjoy something that few have been , able to see!! P.S. yes a raffle to be able to watch the chicks being banded would be a good way to get some funding for more web cams.. and other bills..

  5. This has been an enlightening experience for me! I have so enjoyed watching the peregrines.. from the 1st to the 4th! Once the little ones fly the coop, I will move on to the ospreys and hopefully get to enjoy their little ones also! Thanks so much!

  6. i have a question for the BRI staff.. the males have green and black bands..what color is the female bands??? thank you..and silver is the state of birth tag ??

  7. Just wonderful...thank you so much Patrick, BRI, Judy & Chris for your professionalism handling these great birds. What a thrill it must be for you to be up close & personal with the little ones. Hey kids! A career in science can be extremely exciting - study hard & have fun
    J. in S.P.ME

  8. Patrick, I have a question I hope you can answer. Our chicks were banded, is ME IF&W called upon to band other peregrine chicks? I wonder how many chicks are banded this year, last year. How many chicks were born in ME, too soon to tell how many have fledged, but I'm wondering about numbers. Thanks
    J in S.P.ME

  9. 05/22 @ 09:25

    Congratulations to the banding team ... another job well done!

    The Fabulous Four look great wearing their "bracelets" and can now be considered volunteers who will help all peregrines by providing study info.

    Thank you for allowing us to share this experience.

    JAM in IL

  10. Thank you so much for allowing us into the wonderful world of the Falcon...I have been observing your webcam since wk 2 in April, using your nest as a possible timeline to our nest in SE PA. Banding just took place yesterday 2m 2f...I just love to watch the parents instilling all that they need...soon time to fly I would imagine.

  11. BRI might want to change live views to the other web cam that looks forward.. the falcons look ready to fledge.. hope we get a chance to watch the 4,chicks fly off !! Thanks..

  12. the chicks are so funny when food shows up.. they were pestering mom or dad, and chased the parent outta the nest area....one was pokeing the parent, on the head , then sat down to apear smaller, another chick tried to but the parent off the food... then the adult had enough and took off.. fast...LOL hope the web cam is switched, to the water view, so that we can watch the young falcons, fly out..

  13. looks like 2 have fledged.. a shame we could not watch that... guess BRI is trying to fix the Osprey web cam problem...would be a good plan to shut down the loon web cam ( nothing hapening there) and use that feed for the # 2 eagle nest...( just an idea ) !!..or possibly the Falcon web cam.. as we would all enjoy seeing the falcon chicks fly !! Thanks for all the great work and web cams.. sure do love to watch the birds..and learn about them..

  14. Patrick - the microphone must not be working. The falcons are making a ton of noises and all we here is a faint clanking sound. Any chance of getting it working?

  15. Sorry I meant "hear" not here

  16. June 4, Noon
    Seems we have only one chick left in the scrape! Probably the last to hatch, which I think was the female. It still has bits of white fluff on her head (I think that's called filoplume...Patrick?). I wonder if that has to disappear before she goes - it won't be long!! What a great season - Thanks BRI
    J.in S.P.ME

  17. 6/4 5:50 There are two birds in the patio as they say, watching the sunset. I wonder if the new flyers will be in for the evening?