Wanted: Bird Bander

posted: 04/11/12

Wanted: Bird Bander to gather up endangered birds and tag 'em, count 'em and study 'em, despite a bird's best efforts to peck its way out of it.

Job Description: Ever wonder how endangered bird species are tracked and crucial data is collected about them? The answer: bird banders are the ones who get this done. This position requires a person with empathy for conservation efforts and an eye toward science. In short: Endangered birds need to be tagged with an aluminum band that has a unique number etched on it. This allows researchers and wildlife conservationists to keep track of a specific species of birds in order to watch the health of certain populations. Data from banding can also give scientists important information about migration patterns and certain behaviors of bird species.

Of course, the concept of tagging sounds rather simple, but actually doing it is a little tougher, especially when trying to band an older bird. Banders typically like to tag when the birds are young so that they can keep proper track of them. For instance, the common tern, an endangered bird that lives in Ohio, nests and mates in secluded, marshy areas, so banders set up a special area built on pontoon boats for baby chicks to hatch. After the adult terns lay their eggs and the eggs hatch, banders count and band the babies before they can fly, giving them a more accurate count of the population.

All different kinds of birds need banding, however, and there are as many as 32 different sizes for bird bands, which range in size to fit the smallest hummingbird to bigger birds like eagles and swans.

Desired Skills and Qualifications: Since bird banding requires catching and handling birds, you need a federal permit for this job, since the Migratory Bird Treaty Act allows only federally banded birds to be released into the wild. Depending on the state, you might also need a state permit. To get a master banding permit -- of which there are only 2,000 in the United States -- you need to have a subpermit first, which is a bit like the learner's permit you get before your driver's license. Anyone who wants to band birds, however, must be able to demonstrate the proper techniques in catching, handling and banding birds

Why You Should Want This Job: If you're an avian fan and want to keep an eye out for their well-being, bird banding may be just the job for you.

Bird banding helps track birds and, in some cases, protects certain endangered species from going extinct. Find out, for instance, How the Bald Eagle Was Delisted as an Endangered Species, at HowStuffWorks. And for other common endangered species, learn about Declining Frog Populations and Whether Wolf Hunting Is Legal.

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