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2019-04-10 / Outdoor Life

DEC Details Purposes And Routine Of Banding Bald Eagles

By Rosie Cunningham


Young bald eagles in the nest ready to be tagged by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Courtesy NYSDEC Young bald eagles in the nest ready to be tagged by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Courtesy NYSDEC New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s eagle banding and tagging has a specific focus.

According to Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Public Relations Officer Jomo Miller, there is an area of the state where DEC has concerns regarding a threat to bald eagles. DEC may capture and tag (band and satellite telemetry) to learn more about how the threat alters the eagles and/or their essential behaviors (breeding, foraging, wintering).

Eagles and birds are banded by the DEC and wildlife staff trained and permitted by the USGS (the federal agency that oversees the bird banding program) to band eagles and other birds protected by the Migratory Bird Act.

“DEC still occasionally bands chicks as well as rehabilitated adult birds before they are released,” said Miller. “Through tagging, DEC collects migration/ movement data, as well as longevity (age) data. All birds are tagged with a federal band and a color New York state band with an alpha letter and two-digit numeric code. NYS bands can be read through binoculars and spotting scopes, allowing DEC to get observations of individual birds from wildlife photographers/ birdwatchers.”

The DEC has tagged more than 1,800 eagles in New York since 1977. Depending on the project focus, DEC tags many types of birds in New York, including, but not limited to, ducks, geese, woodcock, raptors, owls, marsh birds, turkeys, songbirds and more.

Miller described the catch and release aspect and what time or times of year it take place. Chicks are banded in the nest during the month of May. DEC climbers ascend the tree and process the chicks without removing them from the nest. Adults can be captured during the winter using rocket nets over carrion, or during the summer using floating fish traps.

“Our eagle banding records go back to the late 1970s when the hacking program started,” said Miller.

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