26 February 2010

Appleton to Alamo; 1,482 miles by Pelican

Last summer we shared a few posts about how reporting banded birds can be important, fun, educational and/or just plain interesting. (see posts: eagles with accessories and Camp Eagle)

A few posts back there was a photo of an American White Pelican at Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge. Here it is again, with a somewhat visible green tag with 398 in black. That's actually kind of important for reporting purposes.

"...a wing-tagged American White Pelican. We're waiting to hear back on that [...] but we're not holding our breath."

The Bird Banding Lab, run by USGS is where you can report bands; you need to know the kind of band and if there's no band visible because it's a live sighting, you need a plethora of information. Pretty much off the bat, you need to know the species of bird, what kind of marker, what colors are used, what numbers or codes are used, and the date & location of the sighting.

Using the information you submit, more often than not, you'll get a response within a few weeks. It may come in the form of an e-mail response from the group behind the banding of the actual bird you saw, or it could be a certificate of appreciation from USGS. (Or if it was a Black-whiskered Vireo, you're still waiting in suspense!) Come to think of it I never did post the story behind the Florida Scrub Jays that we saw.

Where was our pelican from? The highlights: "Marsh Lake"Minnesota; "was too young to fly when banded in 2009" and the band date was 07/11/09 - this information showed up in the mail yesterday on a certificate of appreciation. Oh, and a fellow named Jeff was the bander.

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See? The little fellow wasn't too far from our relatives in Willmar! Now, as-the-pelican-flies, it probably wasn't a full 1,482 miles but they do a lot of circling on thermals to get to where they're going. In Illinois I'd watch the pelicans flying down the Mississippi River in October and they'd be around for my Houston/Seabrook Christmas Bird Counts... then I'd see them again in the spring, heading back north. (A note about Seabrook: they're more about tourism than nature, but pelicans are prominently featured all over their city pages.)

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How's that for perspective? The little fellow made it all the way to the border - I don't blame him for not crossing though, it's too much of a hassle to get back into the US even with the appropriate paperwork. It's amazingly easy to get into Canada or Mexico, but the worst border grilling I've gotten was trying to get back to Buffalo, sheesh. Regardless, Santa Ana is not a bad spot to rest... even if the rest of the flock has moved on.

EDIT: Right after posting I googled Jeff Dimatteo, the fellow who is listed as the bander. There's a wonderful site about the project with some hilarious baby pictures, for those of you who might need convincing that birds are actually dinosaurs...
Banding Pelicans (hosted by birdchick)


  1. You know, he does look vaguely familiar to me. Perhaps we knew each other when I lived in MN. I have been through Appleton a few times, so that's probably why he seems familiar to me. ;-)

  2. I was with a group from work that had a tagged Brant; this in San Diego.

    It was banded in the Aleutian Islands.

    This would be a fun topic to get stories from people who have had banding info sent back to them.

  3. this comment popped up on my facebook page: LH - Thanks for posting a link to report bands...I took the opportunity to report 3 banded Mallards and about 30 neck-banded Canada Geese from 3 states. And one of the Mallards was banded in the Northwest Territories! Awesome about the pelican btw :)