Why are you banding birds?
We are banding Superb Fairy-wrens to find out how they move about Melbourne and if the work City of Melbourne (CoM) is doing to improve understorey plantings and habitat connectivity is working. Putting a unique combination of bands on the legs of individual birds, allows us, and you, to identify each individual Superb Fairy-wren so we can track where they go and who they socialise with. This will help improve habitat, track how well planting efforts are going, as well as increase our understanding of these awesome birds.
Ultimately, we want to create great spaces for Superb Fairy-wrens and other small birds in our cities right across Australia and the wonderful birds we are banding here are helping us to do just that. Find out more about the project: About the Project
Why Superb Fairy-wrens?
Well everyone loves fairy-wrens! But not only are they really cute and fun to watch, there are also a few key details that make them a good study species too.
- Unlike a lot of our small native birds, they are territorial, so they stay in the same place year-round. Only the young birds disperse (move away) from home. This means we can keep a track of the individuals we band and see how they move around various parts of Royal Park and surrounds. Hopefully soon we will have people sighting our young birds in nearby suburbs as well.
- They are pretty easy to find and identify. While they are small, they are active and keep close to the ground, often coming out onto the lawn, perfect for letting us catch a peek at their leg bands.
- Understanding how to help them helps a whole range of other birds too. They have a lot of the same habitat requirements of other small native birds, so if we can create great spaces for them, we will help a lot of other birds as well.
Do the bands hurt the birds?
No not at all. Our trained banders from BirdLife Australia have the safety and well-being of the birds first and foremost in everything they do. When proper techniques and equipment are carefully employed, it’s a safe procedure for birds. Bird banding is used internationally as an important research tool that has substantially improved our understanding of many aspects of bird biology and provided critical information for the management and conservation of bird populations.
Not only are members of our team at Royal Park regularly surveying, but our amazing citizen scientists are too. There are lots of eyes out watching and we are ready and able to step in quickly in the unlikely event of an injury to one of the birds.
Who is able to band birds?
Catching and banding wildlife is illegal without special permits and licences. The Australian Bird and Bat Banding Scheme (link) oversees and administers all bird and bat banding in Australia. Bands are only issued by the ABBBS for approved studies, and banders must be trained and licenced. We also need, and have, an approved animal ethics permit and a permit from the state wildlife authority (DELWP) to run the Superb City Wrens Project.
All of our banding for this project is undertaken by licenced banders who work for BirdLife Australia. They have high-level skills in catching and handling birds. Between them the 3-person team have been banding birds for over 30 years and have banded more the 20 000 individuals.
How do you catch the birds?
Before a bird can be banded, it must, of course, be caught. For this project we catch the birds in mistnets. Mistnets look a bit like a volleyball net. They are made of fine black nylon, almost invisible, and are positioned where birds are likely to fly into them, such as along some of the walking tracks in Royal Park. Our licenced banders set up the nets and constantly supervise them to make sure any birds that get caught are removed quickly. The bander takes some measurements (like weight and wing/tail lengths) as well as information about body condition, fit the leg bands and release the bird where it was mistnetted. The entire process takes about 10 minutes and mistnets are never left unattended.
What are the bands made of?
Basic ABBBS bird bands are usually made of metal. Our metal bands, which have been coated in a colour that corresponds to the area of Royal Park that the bird was captured. Each metal band also has a unique number on it. This number identifies when and where the bird was banded so if a bird is captured again by others, researchers can enter the information in the ABBBS database and find out when and where it came from.
Colour-banding using plastic bands can be used in addition to the basic metal band, making it possible to identify individual birds just by sight, without recapturing them. In this way it is possible, for example, to follow the movements and behaviour of individuals within a group to learn more about their biology than by using metal bands only.
Our Superb Fairy-wrens are fitted with a metal band/colour band combo. Each fairy-wren has been banded with a metal band on the bird’s left leg that is colour coded for the area they were caught in. On the right leg is a coloured metal band (the same as the ABBBS band but without the numbers) and a coloured plastic bands that helps identify which individual bird it is. The combination of a plastic band over a metal band is considered best practice for fairy-wren species.
The other bird species we have banded are fitted only with a coloured metal band that indicates the location within Royal Park that the bird was banded in (see below).
What are the colours of the metal bands used for different locations?
Blue – Royal Park north of Elliot Avenue (not including the Zoo)
Pink – Royal Park South of Elliot Ave
Yellow – Princes Park and the Cemetery east of Royal Parade.
The coloured metal band on the bird’s left leg indicates which of the above locations they were caught in. So far all Superb Fairy-wrens have only a blue band on their left leg as none have been banded in the other two locations so far. Other bird species banded may have one of the above coloured leg bands (blue, pink or yellow).
How much do the leg bands weigh?
Leg bands are very light – we don’t want to impede on our birds being able to fly or forage naturally. They weigh about the same as a single raindrop. These have been standardised and monitored over years of scientific research.
Are Superb Fairy-wrens the only birds you are banding and studying?
While Superb Fairy-wrens are the only birds that we are putting metal AND coloured bands on in a unique combination (so we can all identify individuals), we also have bands on other small native birds like White-browed Scrubwrens, New Holland Honeyeaters, Brown Thornbills, Eastern Spinebills and Willie Wagtails that were captured in the mistnets in Royal Park. These small native birds are also uncommon in urban Melbourne and we want to know how they are moving around as well.
How many birds have you banded?
We have banded 55 Superb Fairy-wrens with unique colour combination leg bands. Go here: insert link for a profile on our birds and their leg band combinations. As of August 20th , 50 of our Superb Fairy-wrens have been seen again in the parklands.
We have also banded White-browed Scrubwrens (29), New Holland Honeyeaters (15), Brown Thornbills (1), Eastern Spinebills (4), Red-browed Finches (2) and Willie Wagtails (3). Each of them has a coloured metal band on their left leg only. The colour corresponds with the location that they were caught and banded.
How can I report a banded bird?
Go here to read about how to report one of our Superb City Wren banded birds.
If you see a banded bird elsewhere that is not a part of our study you can report the sighting to the ABBBS. ABBBS will confirm the sighting with the registered bander and provide you with some information on the bird you have seen.
What do I do if I see a sick or injured bird?
Always contact a wildlife rescue group if you are concerned about a bird that is sick or injured. Check out this guide.
If it is one of our banded birds please contact BirdLife Australia on (03) 9347 0757 to get a message to one of our banders.
Who can I contact about the Superb City Wrens project?
For enquiries about the project including media requests, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Who are the team behind Superb City Wrens?
The Superb City Wrens project is a research collaboration between The City of Melbourne, BirdLife Australia, RMIT University and the University of Melbourne.
How secure is the data we send you?