LAUREL MD 20708-4037

FAX 301-497-5717


August 1997


To: All Banders

From:Chief, Bird Banding Laboratory (BBL)


  1. Administrative Changes
  2. Computer Subjects
  3. Bands
  4. Hazard Alerts
  5. Changes in BBL Procedures
  6. Ways Banders Can Help BBL
  7. Manual Changes
  8. Recent Literature



As a new bander, a couple of decades ago, I never could get straight how the Bird Banding Lab was related to Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. I knew that if I visited colleagues at the Center, in Laurel Maryland, I could drop by the Lab, but the two groups always seemed somehow different. Now I know they were different. Although the Lab has always been hosted on the Center, it always had different supervisory linkages within the Fish and Wildlife Service. Now as Center Director, I'm pleased to know that a new generation of banders need not be concerned since for the first time the Lab is now part of the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center.

As the Federal government has reorganized itself over the past few years, not unexpectedly there have been other changes affecting the Lab. Both the Lab and the Center left its historic roots in the Fish and Wildlife Service and (along with other Department of Interior science capabilities) moved to the then new National Biological Service and this year moved again to the US Geological Survey. While it is hoped that all these agency changes were invisible to the banding community, it is good to know that they are behind us, and the Lab can concentrate on what it does best.

However, we do anticipate many changes in the future. Because all organizations need to renew themselves periodically, several years ago an external review panel began an evaluation of the Lab. It is about to provide its final report, and based on early drafts we know that it will recommend some fundamental changes in the way the Lab does its business. Such findings are not unexpected, and in fact are welcomed by the Lab staff. We know, for example, that the Lab has not been taking full advantage of the electronic revolution in its data acquisition and management. We also know that government resources are diminishing and all agencies, including the Lab, have to find every economic measure and root out every inefficiency in order to do their jobs better. We don't expect this review report to just grow moldy on the shelf but rather become the catalyst for a reengineering of the Lab and its work.

We could not be more enthusiastic about the merger of the Bird Banding Lab and Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, nor of the opportunities and challenges that will face us as we help bring North American bird banding into the 21st century. We look forward to the engagement of each bander and others in the ornithological and conservation community in this great initiative. We always want to hear from you, so don't hesitate to be in touch with the biologists and Lab Chief with your ideas and thoughts as this process of change unfolds.

James A. Kushlan, Director

Patuxent Wildlife Research Center


You may have noticed new names on some communications from BBL, for example, the recent computer survey that we sent you. BBL and the separate, long-time EDP computer support section have been merged into one organization to make more effective use of staff and to facilitate further computerization of BBL operations. We are pleased to join with these computer professionals, and we also welcome Wildlife Biologist B.H. Powell to our staff. His responsibilities include band supply, specifications, and quality control. He also is the contact for problems, questions, and suggestions for BAND-OPS, and for game bird data requests.


There have been some changes since we distributed our last telephone and e-mail list to you. Please make any necessary corrections and/or additions from the list below. If you are not certain who to contact regarding your needs, please use the main BBL e-mail address ( or main BBL telephone number (301-497-5790). You may also use the fax number (301-497-5717). Messages will be directed to the appropriate person.

Phone #/E-Mail Address

Mary Gustafson

Auxiliary marking, schedule prep, age/sex questions


Karen Jones

Schedule editing, band inventories, replaced bands, word-processed schedules


Kathy Klimkiewicz

Encounter editing, nongame data requests, Computer-Generated Schedule program


Wendy Manear

Encounter processing, 1-800 system


B.H. Powell

Band supply, specifications, and quality control; BAND-OPS; game data requests

Pager 888.742.7414

Flo Soehnlein

Permit renewal, revisions, and applications (incl subs)


John Tautin

Chief of BBL, permit approval, management of BBL




Order bands, manuals, MTABS, and forms




Banding schedule






BBL is periodically adding information to our HOME PAGE, such as revised status codes and a list of band sizes. You can access our home page from the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center Home Page at:, select "what we do" to locate the BBL Home Page.

An electronic version of the species list is available for downloading on our FTP site:, go to the same site as BAND-OPS and download the file SPECIES.DBF. To download BAND-OPS you need BAND-OPS.EXE and BAND-OPS.ASC as SPECIES.DBF is included in BAND-OPS.EXE.

An electronic version of the new species table for CGS is available from:, download the file sppmastr.bbl. Suggestions are welcomed for useful information you would like to see at either site.


The SPECIES.DBF lookup database used by Band-Ops is periodically updated by the Bird Banding Laboratory. The latest version may be downloaded from our FTP site at

A problem occurs when a new SPECIES.DBF is downloaded and Band-Ops attempts to use the database with the old index (.NDX) files. In this instance, AOU numbers and/or species codes may not match the species name.

To correct this problem, use one of the two methods below:

(1) from the DOS prompt at your banding subdirectory, delete all index files with (DEL *.NDX); then restart Band-Ops. Band-Ops will create any index files which are not found.

(2) From the Band-Ops Main Menu: select [5] for Utilities; select [1] for System Utilities; select [9] for Create New Indexes; place a mark (X) by Species Indexes (second line down). Press [ENTER] successively until the cursor passes the last entry. The species lookup table index files will be reconstructed.


The Bird Banding Laboratory is working on a revision of the Bird Banding Manual. You can watch our progress on the draft version of the manual at Please feel free to comment on areas that you would like to see expanded or clarified. At this time we are only planning on an electronic revision, not a printed version. Please send comments on this draft document to, and include the specific document name with any suggestions that you may have for improvement.


When band recoveries occur we notify banders and states via paper listings called the Report to Bander, and Quarterly Report. We would like to send these reports electronically to those who can receive it that way. Please let us know what improvements you would like to see in these two reports. How often do you need these reports? Would bimonthly or quarterly be satisfactory for the Report-to-Bander? Would you like e-mail notification of recoveries, or how about a system where you would use the Internet to access our FTP server and download your recoveries? Please send your comments to Kathy_


First of all, we would like to thank all of you who participated in the computer survey that we sent out towards the end of May. Of the approximately 2,000 questionnaires we sent out, as of August 26th, we have received a 65.2% response. Only 8.6% of the respondents had no computers. Of those 91.4% having computers, 82.3% had PC compatible computers (with 95.4% of them using some version of MS Windows), 10.7% had PowerMacs, and the rest were using other assorted operating systems (77.8% of all respondents have access to the Internet).

As a result of this survey, we will be developing new banding software that will run on a Windows system and on a PowerMac system. To aid us in developing the best software we can, we would like to solicit comments at this time on what types of information you are currently collecting and what features you would like to see included in the new software. If you made comments or suggestions on your questionnaire, it is not necessary to repeat those comments. Please direct all comments to Again, thanks to all of those who have participated, and thanks in advance for any comments and suggestions you may send in.


Two new programs for the Newton MessagePad have been written by Tima Scientific, Inc. Digital Bander is dedicated to the collection of animal mark and recapture data. Digital Bander allows you to record quickly and accurately all data required by the BBL. You can print banding schedules from your Newton MessagePad using the Band Schedule Manager. Digital Bander allows you to record date of capture, band or tag number and position, auxiliary marker ID and position, species, etc as well as recapture data, study site information, and morphometrics. Eco-ID has all the features of Digital Bander, but includes additional capabilites. Eco-ID was designed to be the most comprehensive mark-recapture program available. Both applications allow you to configure data sheets to suit your own terminology and to predefine the possible choices for data values. The transfer of data from the MessagePad to your Windows or Mac OS desktop computer is straightforward. For more information, contact Tima Scientific P. O. Box 332, 73 Lorne Street, Sackville, New Brunswick, E0A 3C0 Canada Toll-free: 888-848-TIMA Tel: 506-364-8462 E-mail: * Web:


As you know, BBL has a 1-800 number (1-800-327-BAND) for reporting band recoveries. Use of this telephone number has increased band recovery reports to 76,000+ for 96/97. This total substantially exceeds our previous yearly totals. We expect even more recoveries in 97/98 due to more birds being banded with 1-800 bands, and wider promulgation of the phone number.

Bands bearing the 1-800 number are now available in sizes 5, 6, 7A, 7B and 8. These size bands are sufficiently large to contain both the phone number and a viable address. For example, the inscription on size 5 and 6 bands is:

0000 - 00000

Clearly, having the 1-800 number on larger size bands yield more band recovery reports. We believe it will benefit most banders, and the banding program in general, if smaller size bands also carry the 1-800 number. Smaller band sizes will, of course, not be of sufficient size to bear the entire inscription, and thus, abbreviated versions may omit the words [CALL] and/or [OR WRITE] from the top line and omit [BIRD BAND] from the bottom line. The smallest band, size 0A, will only allow the prefix, serial, and the words [ABRE] and [OPEN] on the outside with:

CALL 1-800
LAU MD 20708

being the largest amount of text for the inner inscription.

The 1-800 number does not work in Latin America, however, with the vast majority of bands being recovered in Canada and the U.S. where use of 1-800 phone numbers is now a preferred way of doing business, we believe that recoveries gained through the 1-800 number will exceed recoveries possibly lost due to a more abbreviated mailing address. We believe it's a trade worth making and we believe that most banders will want to take advantage of the 1-800 bands. We are working out the technical details with band manufacturers, as well as working with them to improve quality and supply time. In the event that significant numbers of banders want to continue using bands with the old inscription, we'll consider maintaining stocks in some sizes.

Incidentally, our 1-800 number is only for reporting recoveries of federal bird bands. Please use our other phone numbers for other matters.


Banders who use or plan to use PICRIC ACID, commonly used to dye plumage, are reminded that it may become an explosive material if improperly stored. Picric acid should be maintained in solution. If it drys, the crystals become a shock or impact sensitive explosive. Crystals commonly occur around the lid of the container and could cause an explosion when container is opened. If you are using Picric Acid please carefully read the Material Safety Data Sheet provided by the chemical supplier.

Banders should be very careful in handling birds with conjunctivitis and/or avian pox. Both are caused by a virus and produce crusty fluid-filled lesions. Conjunctivitis usually affects the eyes and facial area. Avian pox usually affects the feet and sometimes other areas of the body. Holding devices and bags should be disinfected after use for affected or suspect birds. Also, banders should clean and disinfect their hands after handling suspect birds to prevent cross-contamination.


BBL is making the following proposals in an effort to save both time and cost:

  1. We will no longer return duplicate banding schedules as this will reduce work and mailing costs.
  2. Evaluations will be sent only if there were errors or changes on the schedules.

If you have any comments regarding these proposals, please contact


The subpermittee system serves several purposes. It allows banders to have help and, at the same time, provides training for persons interested in banding. It also is designed to save BBL administrative time and associated costs. We are requesting that MASTER permit holders and/or RESPONSIBLE INDIVIDUALS (station permits) work closely with subpermittees for questions, requests, etc. If, for example, you cannot answer a query or do not know how to request data, for example, please call us. SUBPERMITTEES should not order bands, call about preparation of schedules, call about how to make data requests, request permit revision, or request auxiliary marking directly. They should consult with their master bander for answering queries and contacting BBL.

Editing of the age/sex data provided by banders is several months in arrears. Your patience is appreciated; correspondence should be current by fall of 1997. Banders are reminded that the ages and/or sexes outlined below are not acceptable without a cover letter to explain what technique(s) were used. Data fitting the categories listed below will be changed, in the absence of supporting data, and banders may not be notified if time does not permit:

Identification of Willow/Alder Flycatchers by Stein's formula or any technique other than call, song, or breeding locality (in some but not all instances).

Ageing kinglets, Mourning Doves, Northern Cardinals, and House Finches AHY after October 1 or ASY at any time of year.

Sexing HY Common Yellowthroats as F or ageing SY-M by buff eyering.

Sexing birds (even breeding residents) by wing chord in the absence of local reference data (do not use national data) or using AHY data to sex HY birds.

Sexing cuckoos and nondimorphic woodpeckers F by brood patches or sexing L woodpeckers by red on crown.

Sexing HY House Finches as F before October 1.

Sexing American Robins by plumage outside of the eastern US.

Ageing Accipiters ASY or ATY by eye color.

Sexing non-breeding Buteos (other than Ferruginous and Rough-legged Hawks).

Please include your permit number, permit name, daytime telephone, and e-mail address on all correspondence. Invaluable time is saved if we don't have to search for these items in our computer or correspondence files.

Please provide changes or additions for addresses, telephone numbers, and/or e-mail addresses to Florence Soehnlein. Information for subpermittees is also needed, especially the e-mail address if they are to receive an electronic MTAB.

Banders should refer to the BBM, Vol I, to determine the appropriate band sizes to order from BBL. Please do not order more than a one-year supply.

Please help our editing staff by having word-processed layouts for schedules approved prior to submission of data. Send or fax your sample to Karen Jones.

BBL frequently receives inquiries from banders asking about random, or opportunistic, banding of rehabilitated birds. Often these inquiries result from the bander being asked by wildlife rehabilitors to band released birds. We recommend that these birds not be banded unless the data will serve a well-designed project.

Banders should not replace bands unless the band is badly worn or is an incorrect size for that individual. If a band is replaced for wear, please attach the worn band to the "Remarks" section of the schedule. If a band is replaced for any other reason, please explain in the "Remarks" on the schedule. Do not send pink encounter forms (1-1807) for replaced bands. A trap will be processed from the schedule through the programs that handle replacements.

Please submit your schedules following the BBL reporting schedule and/or when a schedule and/or project is completed for the year. This is very important as encounters are being reported faster and in record numbers due to the 1-800 telephone number. It is especially important that game bird banders get their schedules in promptly, because we begin receiving phone calls as soon as hunting seasons open in September.



Add the following species:

100.1 MUPE Murphy's Petrel 3
598.6 ILBH Indigo x Lazuli Bunting Hybrid 1C-1
607.1 FCTA Flame-colored Tanager 1A
764.2 RFBL Red-flanked Bluetail 0
861.0 WRSW White-rumped Swiftlet 0-1 
862.0 PCFD Purple-collared Fruit-Dove 4
863.0 COLK Collared Kingfisher 2
864.0 SAST Samoan Starling 4-3A
865.0 POST Polynesian Starling 2
866.0 CAHO Cardinal Honeyeater 1
867.0 WAHO Wattled Honeyeater 2
868.0 MIHO Micronesian Honeyeater
869.0 RUFA Rufous Fantail 0
870.0 BRWE Bridled White-eye 0
871.0 GOWE Golden White-eye 0
872.0 MIST Micronesian Starling 
873.0 WTGD White-throated Ground Dove
874.0 BLDR Black Drongo

Alpha Code Changes

096.2 Change Buller's Shearwater 096.2 from BUSH to BULS
328.0 Change Black-shouldered Kite to White-tailed Kite WTKI
482.0 Change Gray-breasted Jay to Mexican Jay MEJA
554.1 Change Eastern White-crowned Sparrow to EWCS   
587.6 Change Unknown Rufous-sided Towhee from URTO to URST

Taxonomic Updates

Split Plain Titmouse into Oak Titmouse (733.0) OATI and Juniper Titmouse (733.1) JUTI.

Split Solitary Vireo into Blue-headed Vireo (BHVI) 629.0, Plumbeous Vireo (PLVI) 629.1 and Cassin's Vireo (CAVI) 629.2. Solitary Vireos of indeterminate species are SOVI 629.9.

Band Size Additions and Corrections

436.1 Jamaican Mango change to size X

Band Type Change

Please correct your band size/type list -- type 49 should read incoloy or stainless\no address.

Bander Input Desired

The BBL has been asked to look into the addition of a new species number for Hammond's/Dusky Flycatcher and Unidentified Redpoll. Banders are invited to comment as to whether they would like to see these additions--or any others--to or call Mary at 301-497-5804.


Bill corrugation has long been recognized as a useful method for ageing hummingbirds. Gregor Yanega, Peter Pyle, and Goeffrey Geupel have used statistical analysis to refine this method for Anna's and Rufous Hummingbirds. See The timing and reliability of bill corrugations for ageing hummingbirds. 1997. Western Birds 28:13-18.

Migration remains a basic area of investigation in banding studies. For a good discussion of variation in migratory movements, and of statistical procedures for analyzing movement data, see James Nichol's chapter, Sources of variation and a selective review of empirical results for birds. It's found in Population Dynamics in Ecological Space and Time. Olin E. Rhodes, et al., eds. 1996. University of Chicago Press.

From the October 1996 issue of the Ornithological Newsletter there is this piece on program SURGE. "Users guide to mark-recapture analysis using program surge. Evan Cooch, Roger Pradel and Nadav Nur. A users guide to using program SURGE, one of the most widely used software applications for analysis of mark-recapture data, has recently been completed, and is available to members of the ornithological community. The book is a detailed treatment on using SURGE effectively for analysis of your data. Considerable emphasis is placed on understanding the principles of the analyses, as well as providing a thorough grounding in the mechanics of using the software. Details on where to get the book are available through the World Wide Web at wildberg/cmr/surge_guide.html or by sending e-mail to Evan Cooch ("

Not so recent, but still very useful for analyses of banding data, is Statistical inference for capture-recapture experiments. 1990. Kenneth Pollock, James Nichols, Cavell Brownie and James Hines. Wildlife Monograph 107. This monograph earned the Wildlife Society award for monograph of the year as well as The American Statistical Association's Snedecor Award for applied statistics. Free copies are still available from

Bander Elliot McClure is selling the remaining stock of his 341 page, 1984 book, Bird Banding at a reduced price of $10.00. It contains lots of still pertinant, practical information, especially on capture techniques. Elliot's address is 69 East Loop Drive, Camarillo, CA 93010.

Several banders are now using GPS technology and satellite transmitters to plot locations and follow larger sized birds. The volume, quality and utility of the data received greatly exceed what one ordinarily gets from conventional band release and hope for recovery studies. An exemplary application of this technology is reported by P.E. Kung and E. Alvarez-Cordero. (Raptor rescue: mapping Venezuela's Harpy Eagle habitat. GPS World (July 1997: 22-32.) The article contains detailed technical, logistical and practical information on using GPS and GIS in field biology. If the library doesn't carry GPS World, try their Internet web site: or call 1-800-598-6008. We thank bander Bill Principe for alerting us to this article.

For a more fun and more accessable example of satellite telemetry and banding, check out Internet web site: and to see results of study using satellite transmitters to track migrating snow geese.