Bird banding provides a unique opportunity to gather information regarding the timing and routing of migration, survival rates, social structures, population trends, and more. Even for the most common species, such research continues to reveal surprises, while for species of concern it provides critical data for the planning of conservation and management efforts.
The success of the North American bird banding program depends on the participation of many independent observatories across the continent. The likelihood of birds being recovered at sites other than where they were banded increases in proportion to the number of banding stations in operation. As such, there is particular merit in establishing new observatories in regions which currently have little coverage. At present there are very few active banding stations in Quebec, and since its establishment in 2004, McGill Bird Observatory (MBO) has been the only one in the province to undertake standardized migration monitoring through banding in both spring and fall.
Moreover, MBO provides both undergraduate and graduate students with a rare opportunity to receive ongoing training in banding over the course of their studies. Through working regularly at the banding station, students gain a competitive advantage for the many field positions which require experience with banding or other field ornithology skills. MBO also invites public participation, both to provide training to individuals interested in developing their banding skills, and to deliver educational programs.
The principal short-term goal of McGill Bird Observatory is to undertake standardized monitoring of migratory passerines and Northern Saw-whet Owls (Aegolius acadicus) through banding and supplemental observations. MBO was launched in 2004 by graduate students from McGill University’s Department of Natural Resource Sciences in partnership with the Migration Research Foundation.
Because banding has occurred on the site only sporadically in the past, pilot banding programs were conducted in fall 2004 and spring 2005 to evaluate the site’s potential and identify the best locations within the site to concentrate future efforts. Based on the success of these efforts, full-scale migration monitoring programs began in fall 2005.
Our intention is to continue monitoring spring and fall migration annually, adhering to our standard protocol, to develop a long-term dataset that can be used to assess changes in bird populations. However, we expect McGill Bird Observatory to become a permanent installation with several goals beyond simply banding birds. A main objective is to participate in such standardized national population monitoring programs as the Canadian Migration Monitoring Network and Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship, and to encourage the establishment of additional bird banding stations in the province of Quebec.
Another very important goal of the McGill Bird Observatory is to serve as a training centre for students and other interested people who wish to band birds. We also welcome members of the public to observe our activities and provide programs to educate people about birds and the techniques used to study them.