Mar 18 2017

Fall 2016 Bird Banding Season Recap

By Sarah Diaz for The Island Eye News

Chuck-will’s Widow held by Sarah Díaz. This bird was quickly banded, measured, weighed, and released.

The Sullivan’s Island Bird Banding Station had a successful Fall 2016 season. Our biologists banded 1,552 birds from 62 different species. The total number of species banded for the station is now up to 75.

Common ground Dove. Wing feathers are examined by the biologists to determine the age of the bird. This bird was quickly banded, processed, and released.

There were some unusual and unexpected finds this Fall season. We banded three species of raptors, including an adult male Northern Harrier, a Cooper’s Hawk, and a Barred Owl. The Barred Owl is usually associated with wide expanses of mature forest. This particular Barred Owl has apparently settled down in the seasonally flooded section of the maritime forest at Station 16.

Other unexpected finds included two species of birds that were entirely out of their geographic range: The Bell’s Vireo we banded is normally found in the Central Plains. The White-Crowned Sparrow we banded did not stray as far out of its range as the Bell’s Vireo.

White-crowned Sparrows are Winter residents of the northern half of South Carolina, although some individuals will very occasionally stray farther south into the Coastal Plain.

Other highlights included a Common Ground and a Chuck-will’s Widow. “Common Ground Dove” is a bit of a misnomer. These tiny doves are uncommon and populations are in decline, but they can be found regularly in the Fort Moultrie field and surrounding open areas, such as the scrub land at Station 16. This Chuck-Will’s-Widow is only our second banded at the station. These birds are nocturnal insectivores. We are hoping to place a GPS tag on another Chuck-Will’s this Spring. The tag will send real-time data to a satellite and we can learn about where the bird is wintering. Little is known about this species’ population status, which is suspected to be in decline due to habitat loss.

If you would like to learn more about the Sullivans Island Bird Banding Station, visit If you would like to visit or volunteer for the banding station, you can email Sarah Díaz at

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