What is Bird Banding?

Bird banding refers to the “tagging” of migratory and breeding birds by placing a metal band on one of their legs. Using large nets, called mist nets (similar in shape to volleyball nets), and traps on the ground, we are able to safely capture wild birds. The birds are trapped or tangled, but unharmed, during this process and are quickly extracted from the nets or traps. They are then carefully carried back to the banding lab in small cloth bags (which help to reduce stress) where they are banded by a licensed bander.

Each band shows a unique 9-digit number which, if recovered, allows us to identify the bird as an individual with a “history”. Before they are released, we also take the opportunity to learn more about the individual birds by measuring and recording the species, sex, age, wing length, fat stores, weight, muscle mass, overall condition of the bird, and the date.

Why monitor?

As well as banding, we determine on a daily basis the number of each species of bird that we encounter around the banding area. The “estimated total” for each species is based on banding and recapture numbers, general observations while banding, and a 1-hour census.

The banding information we gather is sent to the Canadian Wildlife Service and then passed on to the Bird Banding Lab in Maryland where it is tabulated and entered into a continent-wide network that tracks the movement of individuals/species. Recording this information over time allows trends to be determined and can help us decide whether certain populations are declining, expanding, or stable. This data can also aide in landuse planning, stewardship projects, determining ecosystem health, and the implementation of rehabilitation measures for species that are being lost or are at risk.

Rare Species

Click here for our bird list with a summary of all the avian species banded or observed at Ruthven Park since 1995! (Also available in hard copy at the banding lab.) Some of our most notable species include Prothonotary Warbler, Cerulean Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat, Golden-winged Warbler, Louisiana Waterthrush, Hooded Warbler, and Acadian Flycatcher.

Come and Visit Us!

If you are interested in seeing how birds are captured and banded please drop into the banding lab at Ruthven Park. Banding is completed during spring (April and May) and fall (September and October) migrations; please call to inquire about specific days we are banding. (Please note that banding is not completed during heavy rain.) Here you will have the opportunity to see birds being extracted from the nets and banded. You may also have a chance to handle and release a bird under the guidance of a licensed bander! This is a unique and fun experience for both children and adults and can provide a great fall field trip as well! Please wear appropriate footwear (rubber boots are recommended as our trails can be muddy)!

Visit our Bird Blog!


Winter Hours – October 10/17 to May 18/18

The Gate House: (office) open Monday to Friday 9 am to 5 pm

The Mansion: by appointment only for groups of 6+ people

Contact Us:
Phone: (905) 772-0560 
Toll-free: (877) 705-7275

Mailing Address: 
243 Haldimand Hwy. #54,
Box 610
Cayuga, ON N0A 1E0