A few weeks ago, I took a short video of a group of American White Pelicans feeding at the Circle B Bar Reserve. I thought it was cool because you could see them tossing fish in their mouths, and see the fish bulging out of their pouches as they ate.
When I got home, I noticed that at least one (maybe two?) of the birds had green markings on their wings. At first I was annoyed that more birds had gotten into trash at Circle B, then I realized that this was no trash. It was a wing tag marking used to identify birds. All of a sudden that made sense – how many people get close enough to birds like pelicans to read a little number on a band around their leg? Of course a wing tag is easier to read!
So I reported my sighting of the bird to the Bird Banding Laboratory. They relay the information of the sighting to the original bander, who can tell you where the bird was first banded, as well as any additional sightings. This morning I got an email back from the biologist who first banded my pelican. Here’s what he had to say:
Thank you for your recent report of a color-marked white pelican. I watched the video and it does appear to be a bird marked by me. Unfortunately, without the complete three-digit code on the wing tag, I am unable to provide the corresponding leg band number to identify the individual bird. However, if it was the last digit of the three-digit code that couldn’t be seen (46x as was reported), then I can tell you it was banded as a flightless young (sex unknown) on June 26, 2010 at Marsh Lake in west central Minnesota…I currently band approximately 2,000 pelicans per year in this colony, continuing a long term annual banding program that began in 1972.
Is that cool or what? To know that some of the pelicans that winter at Circle B have flown all the way from Minnesota! Wow!
Isn’t nature awesome?