USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
Bird Banding Laboratory
12100 Beech Forest Road

Laurel , MD 20708-4037


December 2005


To: All Banders

From: Chief, Bird Banding Laboratory (BBL)

In this issue:

1. MTAB on BBL website
2. People in the News
3. The BBL Federal Advisory Committee to Meet
4. News from the Canadian Wildlife Service Bird Banding Office
5. Avian Influenza Update
6. Meeting with Mexico Representatives
7. Data Management
8. Changes to Reports
9. Bands and Banding Equipment
10. Salvaged Specimens
11. Visiting the Bird Banding Laboratory

1. Please Note: MTAB on BBL website

This issue of the MTAB has been posted to BBL website (see To comment on the MTAB on the web please contact us at or call us at (301) 497-5807. Previous MTABs can also be found on our website.

People in the News

Danny Bystrak, who retired from BBL in 1994, is working for us part-time on contract. Danny is a great asset to all our BBL operations.

Richard Cardellino joined us in October 2005 as a contract bilingual biological technician. He is fluent in Spanish and Portuguese and has worked with Red-cockaded Woodpeckers and forest management. His duties will include assistance with encounter reports from Latin America, especially with the 1-800 Mexico project; Spanish and Portuguese translations and telephone calls and data quality of these reports; data requests from federal, State, and Latin American countries; processing neck collar sightings; and helping provide support for Band Manager.

Rose DeComo joined our Encounter Processing Section in September 2004 as a coding clerk. She manages 1-800 calls and encounter edits. Rose returned to BBL Data Entry after a leave of absence to be with her children.

Mike Elms joined BBL in June 2003. He is an Oracle programmer working to develop our Oracle database system and will assist with database administration as well as continued programming after we are up and running in Oracle.

Mary Gustafson left BBL in late August for a position with the State of Texas. We are preparing the advertisement now and hopefully we will be able to fill the biologist vacancy by early 2006.

Terry Liddick joined BBL in May 2005 to serve as liason with the Flyway Councils, State agencies, and government agencies. He spent 6 weeks banding ducks in Canada this past summer as part of the pre-season waterfowl banding program. Terry is well versed in wildlife management with the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and is a welcome addition to BBL as our third biologist.

Rita Malorodova joined BBL in August 2004 as an Oracle programmer contractor. Her expertise and efforts have been instrumental in getting us to the new relational database system.

Alexis Smoluk returned in late September 2005 as our temporary contract biological technician. She worked with us last fall and winter also. She will assist the biologists and the BBL Chief to allow us more time for work on our computer conversion project. Alexis spends much of her spring and summer working on Spotted Owl research and her fall banding raptors at Cape May Bird Observatory.

Mitchell White joined the Encounter Processing Section in September 2004 as a coding clerk with his major focus on the map edits and 1-800 call management.

Staff contact information is on our web site (see

3. BBL Federal Advisory Committee (BBL FAC)

A FAC has been established to develop a clear, concise report defining a vision for the BBL over the next ten to fifteen years, and recommend priority actions that should be taken to address the needs of the regulatory agencies, bird conservation, research, and banding communities to ensure BBL excellence into the 21 st century. The Department of Interior confirmed 12 individuals (including federal representatives both U.S. and Canadian; NGOs; and representatives of the banding community) to provide expertise and to represent organizations on the Committee. The Committee will provide advice and guidance to assist the BBL in fulfilling its essential and primary role of supporting the needs of regulatory agencies such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Canadian Wildlife Service, and state fish and game agencies, while also addressing the emerging needs of the larger conservation and research communities.

The Committee is inactivated in two years but can be reinstated at any time thereafter. The first meeting was held at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, MD on November 29 and 30, 2005. The BBL is looking forward to receiving their ideas and results of their efforts. The public may attend the meetings and have input during the appropriate portion of the agenda.


4. News from Canadian Wildlife Service Bird Banding Office

Canada has new Species at Risk legislation to protect their Endangered and Threatened Species throughout Canada or just in the Provinces that apply. This list can be viewed on the Canadian Banding web site (see link on BBL Homepage).

5. Avian Influenza Update

As you must be aware, there is growing concern about the probability and risk of the avian flu. The USGS National Wildlife Health Center Bulletin “05-03 Guidelines for Handling Birds” provides interim guidelines for handling wild birds with regard to the highly pathogenic Avian Influenza H5N1. The National Wildlife Health Center carries the USGS’ official word on wildlife disease matters and provides periodic bulletins on such matters on their web site. The BBL encourages banders to periodically check this USGS National Wildlife Health Center web site:

Although this form of avian influenza has not been reported from the U.S. or Canada, it may only be a matter of time before it is discovered in North America. It is important that banders be advised of the proper ways to protect themselves and their staff and volunteers. See the excerpt below from Health Bulletin 05-03:

These Guidelines have been developed in consultation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They are advisory in nature and intended to provide guidance for field biologists and others working with or handling wild birds with specific reference to highly pathogenic avian influenza. The guidance reflects information available as of August 2005 and may be updated as more information becomes available.

Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza H5N1
To date, Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza A H5N1 has not been detected in humans, poultry or wild birds in North America and no data suggest that H5N1 should be suspected of being in North America or in wild birds migrating from Asia to North America this fall (2005).

Avian influenza, or bird flu, is a virus typically found in wild birds, especially waterfowl and shorebirds. The virus is only found in a small number of birds in the wild, and generally does not cause clinical signs of disease. The virus is shed in fecal droppings, saliva and nasal discharges. Since 2003, a particularly virulent strain of this virus has emerged in Asia —the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 virus. The HPAI H5N1 virus probably originated from domestic poultry in that region and is of concern because: 1) it poses a threat to domestic poultry, especially chickens; and 2) it has caused illness in 112 persons, including the deaths of at least 57 people as of August 2005. Most human cases are thought to have become infected with the virus through direct handling of infected poultry, consumption of uncooked poultry products, or contact with virus-contaminated surfaces/materials. However, to date, the risk of H5N1 transmission to people through direct contact with infected poultry remains very low. Probable, limited person-to-person transmission of H5N1 viruses in a small number of cases has been reported.

There are an increasing number of reports that HPAI H5N1 is infecting and causing death in wild birds, including some migratory species. These events and the associated spread of the H5N1 virus to new geographical areas in Asia have created concerns and questions about the possibility that the H5N1 virus could be carried into North America in migratory birds.

These Guidelines provide advice about practices and precautions people should exercise to mitigate the risk of HPAI H5N1 viral infection based on the level of exposure to wild birds. Because situations can change quickly, we have included recommendations for handling wild birds in the event that HPAI H5N1 is detected. It is important to check with your respective public health, animal health, and natural resource agencies for up-to-date information on HPAI H5N1.

There is no known case where H5N1 has been transmitted from wild birds to humans. However, even apparently healthy wild birds can be infected with microorganisms other than HPAI, some of which are currently of more concern to human health in North America than HPAI H5N1.

Thoroughly washing hands with soap and water (or with alcohol-based hand products if the hands are not visibly soiled) is a very effective method for inactivating influenza viruses, including HPAI. These viruses are also inactivated with many common disinfectants such as detergents, 10% household bleach, alcohol or other commercial disinfectants. The virus is more difficult to inactivate in organic material such as feces or soil.

The General Public should, as a general rule, observe wildlife, including wild birds, from a distance. This protects you from possible exposure to pathogens and minimizes disturbance to the animal.

Hunters should follow routine precautions when handling game.

Field Biologists handling apparently healthy wild birds in areas where HPAI H5N1 is not suspected
should work in well-ventilated areas if working indoors. When working outdoors work upwind of animals, to the extent practical, to decrease the risk of inhaling aerosols such as dust, feathers, or dander.

Field Biologists handling sick or dead birds associated with a mortality event should:

Recommendations if HPAI is detected in North America
Field Biologists working with wild birds in areas where HPAI H5N1 has been detected, particularly during disease control operations, should consult with a health care provider and follow the latest guidelines from CDC and the WHO for prophylactic medications and precautions for persons involved in avian influenza disease control:

Additional information about HPAI H5N1 can be found at the following Web links:
USGS National Wildlife Health Center :
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

6. Meeting with Mexican Representatives  

In September the Bird Banding Laboratory hosted a two-day meeting with 3 representatives from Mexico -- Ariel Rojo, Wildlife Conservation Director with SEMARNAT; Humberto Berlanga, Amierican Bird Conservation Initiative Coordinator with CONABIO, and Eduardo Carrera, Director, Ducks Unlimited Mexico. Lesley Howes from the Canadian Wildlife Service Bird Banding Office also attended as did several representatives from Patuxent, USFWS, and USGS.

The meeting helped educate us on the status of banding in Mexico and helped the Mexican delegates better understand the roles and operations of BBL. They were better able to understand how they might benefit from and interact with our program to establish a banding program in Mexico. All three Mexican attendees have been working hard on educating Mexican hunters about banding and encouraging them to report bands. This is already showing benefits for us, and as word spreads, we expect to see more reports of banded birds from Mexico for both game and nongame species. Wildlife managers and researchers in Mexico, the United States, and Canada will ultimately benefit from the outreach and further band reporting in Mexico. To report an encounter from Mexico, call this toll free number: 001-800-327-2263.

An in-depth tour of the Bird Banding Laboratory provided much needed information to the Mexican representatives on details of the North American Bird Banding Program. They also met with FWS Population Assessment, Waterfowl Harvest Survey, Breeding Bird Survey, and the Whooping Crane staff to further their understanding of some of the uses of the banding and survey data.

7. Data Management  

New and Improved BBL Web Encounter Reporting Page  

As a result of feedback received about the previous web encounter reporting page and due to the cost of the toll-free reporting line, we are making changes to the web page and encouraging use of this option as the first choice for reporting encounters. Why use the web page rather than the 1-800 report line to report encounters?

The web page is improved and easier to use.

We will continue to make incremental improvements to the site, particularly between now and the summer of 2006. Send your suggestions to

Conversion from the HP Data Management System to the Oracle System

We are making great strides in our programming for converting the North American Bird Banding Database from the transaction based HP structure to the hierarchical Oracle System. Although not all programming is ready yet, we are testing many functions in Oracle and expect to switch to the Oracle system in early 2006. Watch our web site and the Bird Banding News list for updates (see MTAB 87 on our web site for information regarding this list and instructions for its use). Changes in formats, field additions with names and coding information and changes, etc. will be posted on the web site as we progress through the switchover to Oracle etc.

Band Manager Status

Bird Studies Canada’s new version of Band Manager, version 3.1, is being beta-tested. Version 3.1 has Windows menus and other improvements. You can find more information on this version or download it at Many problems with version 2.1 have been resolved in version 3.1 and Bird Studies Canada is working on resolving problems found by beta-testers in version 3.1.

The Bird Banding Laboratory will begin work on Version 4 using FileMaker 8 which will address the changes in fields in the banding records, changes in submission of electronic and paper records, etc.. We anticipate this version will be ready for beta testing by early 2006.

Please watch the Band Manager web site for details (

Note that at this time the BBL still requires hard copy schedules and a disc with the .txt file for a successful electronic data submission. There is no direct link between Band Manager and the web, so selecting “electronic schedules” on the Band Manager Menu does not result in data being sent to the BBL. For assistance or to submit comments regarding version 3.1 or for assistance with Band Manager, contact the Help Desk (Esther Mills) at or 301-497-5845.

Banders Reporting Coordinates via GPS

If banders are reporting their location coordinates from a GPS unit, please be sure that the unit is calibrated correctly to degrees, minutes and seconds prior to use. Also, please state in the “Remarks” that a GPS unit was used to obtain coordinates.

Schedule for Reporting Bandings

Please review the reporting schedule for both game and nongame birds (see the BBL web site If you have any questions about the schedule please contact or

Permit Name and Number

This is a gentle reminder to include your permit number and permit name (as it appears on the permit) on all correspondence (electronic, e-mail, telephone, and paper) with BBL. We use the permit number as a key field for accessing your contact information and data from our database. The BBL Staff thanks you in advance for helping us make our jobs more efficient.

Band Replacement and Double-banding

The BBL now has a supply of hard metal bands and we encourage banders who work on long-lived birds who wear out aluminum bands to use these. This will reduce the number of band replacements and greatly lesson our cost and time for processing these.

Double banding is discouraged and should only be done after the appropriate banding office approves the proposal which must include a justification and explanation of the need for doing double banding. Again, this will help us reduce costs and staff time needed to process these records.

8. Permit Contact Information Changes to BBL

BBL plans to convert the Report-to-Bander and the Periodic (Quarterly) Report to an e-mail format once the Oracle system is running smoothly. Therefore it is very important that banders and others receiving the Periodic Reports provide us with current e-mail addresses and other contact information corrections in a timely manner. Please contact if you have any additions or changes to the contact information for the Periodic (Quarterly) Report. We also would like input regarding the timing of the Periodic Reports so please contact or if you would like to see the timing changed (current schedule is January through March, April through June, July and August, and September through December).

We also need any contact information changes, such as those to e-mail addresses, mail addresses and/or telephone numbers, so that we may communicate effectively with banders. As we continue to increase electronic communication and reduce paper, many letters will be sent via e-mail. Please send all additions and corrections to contact information to We thank you in advance for your cooperation in this matter as we streamline our procedures and communications.

If you are unable to receive your Report-to-Bander and/or Periodic reports and correspondence via e-mail, please contact or

9. Bands and Banding Equipment

Lock-On Bands

It has been suggested that we discontinue lock-on bands and replace them with hard metal (incoloy) bands. We would like raptor banders to let us know their thoughts on this suggestion (please e-mail We would still make rivet bands for eagles.

Banding Plier Development

BBL is working with local banders and several other banders to test banding plier prototypes manufactured by Avinet.

10. Salvaged Specimens

Banders are allowed to salvage banding mortalities as part of their banding permit. The bander must keep a record of the species, date, location, etc. for all salvaged birds and provide this list to BBL or Law Enforcement upon request. Please remember that the banding permit only allows salvage of banding operation casualties. If you wish to salvage other dead birds, please contact the appropriate Law Enforcement region (see for the appropriate additional permit.

All salvaged birds must be submitted to a licensed museum or educational facility licensed to maintain a bird collection. The specimen should be immediately transported or frozen for later transportation. Please follow these steps to prepare the bird before transportation and/or freezing:

11. Visiting the Bird Banding Laboratory

Banders are always welcome to visit BBL during normal business hours. The BBL is part of the USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, located in Gabrielson Laboratory on the Patuxent Research Refuge (a National Wildlife Refuge). The Center and Refuge have security procedures that require all visitors to arrange their visit in advance. It is still possible to visit BBL with advance notice. The BBL is located within the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center located off I-295 at Rt. 197 and Rt. 212 (Powder Mill Road.) between Baltimore, MD and Washington DC. Please call 301 497-5807 or email if you wish to visit.