A Bird In the Hand At Burroughs Audubon Center
October 17, 2011
Have you ever wanted to hold a wild bird in your hand? Once a month, Burroughs Audubon Center in Fleming Park conducts a bird-banding session that is open to the public. If you’re interested in birds, nature, or field biology, you should attend one. You’ll even be allowed to hold a wild bird in your hand and release it! Here are some videos from the October session.
This Red-Bellied Woodpecker was a bit upset about the indignities of the banding process, but when released, it actually hung upside down from someone's hand for a few seconds. But don't worry. If you'd like to release something a bit calmer, chickadees, titmice, and goldfinches are commonly caught and banded here.
The first thing you’ll notice is that even a decent sized bird like a Northern Cardinal only weighs a few ounces. Most of the apparent bulk of birds is made up of feathers, hollow bones, and an extensive network of air sacs. Therefore, even a very large bird weighs far less than you'd expect based on its size: a Bald Eagle with a wingspan of almost 7 feet only weighs about 10 pounds!
The second thing you’ll notice is how warm birds are. In addition to light weight, flight requires a huge amount of energy, so birds have a very high metabolism. Thus, a typical songbird has a body temperature of around 105 degrees. Many birds can drop their body temperature substantially during resting periods, however.
But don’t take my word for it. Check the calendar on the Burroughs Audubon website for the next session. Even if you’re an experienced birder, you’ll learn a lot from Craig Hensley, who has been banding for almost 30 years. I finally learned how to quickly distinguish a Carolina Chickadee from a Black-Capped Chickadee. Now, I have to go back through all my pictures and find one so I can count it on my life list!