PUBLISHED: 3:11 PM on Wednesday, July 13, 2005
Forest Service begins Alaska songbird-banding season

  Forest Service Wildlife Technician Gwen Baluss places a band on the leg of a Varied Thrush at the Mendenhall Recreation area bird-banding station in Juneau, Alaska. The metal band will help identify the bird if it is recaptured in the future.
The Tongass National Forest kicked-off its summer songbird-banding season Sunday, June 5, at the Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area.

Forest Service Juneau Ranger District Wildlife Technician Gwen Baluss operated the bird-banding station from 4 to 10 a.m., collecting and recording data from 21 songbirds caught in specially-designed mist nets.

Species netted included Varied and Hermit Thrushes, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, and Oregon Juncos.

Information such as species, date and time of capture, and body condition are recorded from each netted bird.

The information is entered into a database for the Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship program. MAPS was created in 1989 by the Institute for Bird Populations to identify trends in bird populations. It archives data from 500 bird-banding stations across North America.

  Baluss gently removes an Orange-crowned Warbler from a mist net.
As part of the program, Baluss attaches a small, metal band to each bird's leg. The bands are numbered, and will help identify specimens if they are recaptured in the future.

Baluss also plucks a few tail feathers for genetic studies. "DNA from the tail feathers can be used to link migratory patterns of same-species birds," she said. Many of the songbirds that come to Alaska each spring migrate all the way from Mexico or the southern region of the United States.

The Forest Service in Alaska has participated in MAPS since 1994, when the first pilot station was set up. MAPS stations in other parts of the state have been phased-out, said Baluss. The Mendenhall station is the last MAPS station still operating in Alaska.

Bird-banding continues throughout the summer season. For more information, or to volunteer, contact Baluss at (907)790-7425.