Have you seen this band? The Whimbrel in the foreground above wears a band that was attached to its leg on Chiloe Island in Chile, a wintering site for tens of thousands of Whimbrels and Hudsonian Godwits. Seven weeks after it was banded, the bird was found in March 2007 at California's Mystic Lake — about 6,500 miles from Chile.
We featured the photo in “Birding Briefs” in our August 2008 issue.
Researchers from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other agencies have banded individuals of both species in hopes that resightings will uncover their migration routes. Ornithologists in Colombia also banded 38 Whimrels this past spring in Sanquianga National Park.
Besides the Whimbrel above, one banded godwit has been resighted. It was found May 12, 2007, on the Naknek River, east of King Salmon, Alaska, and was the first known resighting in the state of a Hudsonian Godwit banded in South America.
Jim Johnson of the FWS Migratory Bird Management office in Alaska and his colleague Brad Andres gave us these instructions on what to look for:
“Over the last two years, we have been color-flagging Whimbrels and Hudsonian Godwits on Chiloe Island, Chile,” they say. “Over 20,000 each of godwits and Whimbrels spend the boreal winter in the vicinity of Chiloe. Using a cannon net, we have marked 323 godwits and 135 Whimbrels.”
The birds wear a red flag (the color for Chile) that is engraved with a unique two-letter/number combination on their upper left leg (tibiotarsus). Flag letters/numbers are read like we read a book, from left to right. And the anatomical directions are the way the bird is facing, not necessarily the way you are looking at the bird.
The birds flagged in Chile also have a combination of a color ring and a metal band on their upper right leg. Read them as the color band over the metal band. The researchers used different colors for the birds in the last two years:
Godwits banded in 2007: yellow/metal.
Godwits banded in 2008: orange/metal.
Whimbrels banded in 2007: blue/metal.
Whimbrels banded in 2008: yellow/metal.
Whimbrels banded this year in Colombia wear the following combinations: metal/orange or black on the upper right leg and an inscribed medium green or yellow flag on the upper left leg.
“Besides banding the birds, we collected blood, took measurements, assessed molt, and collected samples for avian influenza,” say Johnson and Andres. “The blood will be used in a genetics study to determine the origin of the birds. There are tentative plans to attach satellite transmitters to Whimbrels next year.”