Records, Rare Species Highlighted Fall Bird Banding

By March 12, 2015Education, Science

It’s downright toasty this week along the Front Range of Colorado. Spring is nearly here, and with the changing seasons comes the spectacular migration of birds. We’re getting prepared and stoked for the upcoming bird banding season and hope you can visit one of our banding stations (view the spring 2015 schedule). To whet your appetite, we wanted to share the birdy highlights from the fall bird banding season. Enjoy!

Barr Lake State Park, Colorado – It was the 28th season of banding birds at Barr Lake northeast of Denver. A total of 1,039 individual birds of 59 species were banded in the fall, including the second-ever Bay-breasted Warbler at Barr Lake, a rare Canada Warbler, the first Black-throated Blue Warbler since 2002 and first Sage Thrasher since 1995. Despite the cool rarities, last season will be remembered by staff and volunteers as the fall of the Wilson’s Warbler, biologist Meredith McBurney said. While it’s a common species to catch, 438 Wilson’s Warblers were caught at Barr Lake – a whopping 42% of all birds banded last fall at the station. Meredith said after about three crazy weeks of catching and banding Wilson’s Warblers, bird numbers dropped greatly. Only two Yellow-rumped Warblers were caught, instead of the typical 40-50 of this species.

Bay-breasted Warbler

This was the second-ever Bay-breasted Warbler banded at Barr Lake. Photo by Peggy Watson.

Hemphill Middle School

Students from Hemphill Middle School in Strasburg, Colorado, watch intently as data is collected on a bird during a field trip to the Barr Lake Banding Station. Photo by Peggy Watson.

Canada Warbler

A rare Canada Warbler was caught and banded last fall at Barr Lake. Photo by Crystal Beckel.


Releasing birds is always one of the highlights for students who visit a banding station. Photo by Emily Snode-Brenneman.

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Sometimes we catch raptors in the mist nets, such as this Sharp-shinned Hawk caught toward the end of the fall banding season at Barr Lake. Photo by Emily Snode-Brenneman.

Chico Basin Ranch, Colorado – Biologist Nancy Gobris and volunteers caught and banded 985 individual birds of 50 species last fall at Chico Basin Ranch, located 35 miles southeast of Colorado Springs. Just like the Barr Lake station, the most-caught species at Chico Basin Ranch was Wilson’s Warbler, or 39% of all birds banded at Chico Basin Ranch. Nancy said cool catches from the season included the sixth-ever Nashville Warbler, third-ever Summer Tanager and second-ever Western Scrub-Jay.

Summer Tanager

This Summer Tanager was a rare catch last fall at Chico Basin Ranch. Photo by Bill Maynard.

Western Scrub-Jay

This was only the second Western Scrub-Jay ever banded at Chico Basin Ranch. Photo by Bill Maynard.

Lee Martinez Park, Colorado – It was our second fall season of banding birds at this city park in Fort Collins. We’re still getting a feel for where to place nets, so we tried several new net lanes last fall closer to the Cache la Poudre River. In roughly four weeks, bander Anna Harris and volunteers caught and banded 55 individual birds of 19 species, including the station’s first Brown Creeper, Cassin’s Finch, Pine Siskin, Red-breasted Nuthatch and Western Tanager.

Northern Filcker

This intergrade Northern Flicker was caught last fall at Lee Martinez Park. Note the red-shafted “mustache” and yellow-shafted wings and tail. Photo by Jeff Birek.


Students on a field trip to the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery visit the banding station to see wild birds up close. Photo by Teddy Parker-Renga.

Cassin’s Finch

This was the first-ever Cassin’s Finch banded by RMBO at Lee Martinez Park. Photo by Teddy Parker-Renga.

Ridgway State Park, Colorado – Located on the West Slope, RMBO operated this station in partnership with the Black Canyon Audubon Society from Sept. 6-16. A total of 86 individual birds of 19 different species were banded there, including 16 Western Tanagers and 12 Song Sparrows.

Ela Wildlife Sanctuary, Colorado – RMBO operated this station near Grand Junction in partnership with the Grand Valley Audubon Society from Sept. 15 to Oct. 16. A total of 269 individual birds of 25 different species were banded there, including the station’s first Ovenbird and a record 42 Orange-crowned Warblers, which is double the previous high for this species. Overall, it was a big fall for the station, with the third-most birds caught and banded there ever.

Chadron State Park, Nebraska – It was a record season at our banding station at Chadron State Park. Bander Josh Lefever caught and banded 571 individual birds, shattering last year’s previous high of 433 birds. Forty-six different species were banded, including the station’s first Black-headed Grosbeak, Blackpoll Warbler, Bullock’s Oriole, Orchard Oriole, Swamp Sparrow and Western Flycatcher.

Blackpoll Warbler

This was the first-ever Blackpoll Warbler banded at Chadron State Park. Photo by Josh Lefever.


Youngsters look for birds through their homemade binoculars during a field trip to the Chadron State Park banding station. Photo by Lauren Dieriaz.

Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area, Nebraska – RMBO’s other bird banding station in Nebraska also set a record with 41 species banded. Bander Holly Garrod caught and banded 419 individual birds, including four firsts for the station: Dusky Flycatcher, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Eastern Screech-Owl and Northern Saw-whet Owl. The owls were caught during a nighttime banding session when Holly was joined by Josh of the Chadron State Park banding station. Holly said September was heralded by many sparrow species migrating past, including Clay-colored Sparrow, Vesper Sparrow and Brewer’s Sparrow. By late in the month, Spotted Towhees had fattened up and started migrating, with a record 73 of this species caught at the Wildcat Hills station last fall.


Bander Holly Garrod talks about birds and migration with a school group at the Wildcat Hills banding station, where the pine trees meet the prairie in western Nebraska. Photo by Lauren Dieriaz.

We appreciate the many schools, families, community groups and others who visited our banding stations in the fall to learn about bird anatomy and migration. Thank you to the many partners and funders who helped us operate these stations. We couldn’t do it without you!

Did you know RMBO also operates owl banding stations? Read about owl banding in 2014. And don’t forget to visit our banding stations this spring. See you out there!