Sharp-eyed bird watchers in Connecticut may notice something new about our state’s treasured American Oystercatchers (AMOY)—yellow leg bands. The birds aren’t making a fashion statement, this bling is part of Audubon Connecticut’s American Oystercatcher Banding Program, an exciting effort to help protect this species of conservation concern in Connecticut and throughout the Atlantic Flyway.
The primary goal of the program is to assess the movement patterns and survival rates of American Oystcercatchers, which are at risk due to low population size, limited habitat availability, and vulnerability to climate change and disturbance. This will be accomplished over several years (2018-2021) as birds are banded and then observed. The oystercatchers will be carefully captured by trained staff who then place a USGS (United States Geological Survey) metal incoloy band on the bottom section of a leg as well as an alphanumeric coded band on each upper leg to uniquely mark adults and juveniles (when their legs reach adult size). Different states use different color alphanumeric bands. Connecticut, Rhodes Island, and Massachusetts have been assigned yellow, while New York and New Jersey use orange.
Audubon is working with the Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (CT DEEP) on the project. To band the birds, Audubon staff use decoys and recordings to lure the oystercatchers into a whoosh net for capture. The program team is very excited to be using decoys crafted by world championship carver and Connecticut resident Keith Mueller. When the birds are in range, the lightweight net is propelled through the air by bungies. The birds are quickly removed from the net, banded, and released. The bands do not harm or discomfort the birds and they serve as the identifying tool to track movement, behavior, and population levels.
“The key to the success of this program will be in the collection of observations or sightings through the American Oystercatcher Working Group,” says Corrie Folsom-O’Keefe of Audubon Connecticut. The Working Group is a collaboration between states along the Atlantic Coast that share banding data to analyze the migration and population of American Oystercatchers. Folsom-O’Keefe further explains “Because we historically do not know where most of the American Oystercatchers that nest in Connecticut go after the breeding season, the information gained from this program will be incredibly helpful in identifying the locations where the species stops during migration and lives in the winter.” Audubon will also gain a better understanding of movement patterns within the state and whether individuals return from year to year. Researchers, volunteers, bird watchers, and citizens who report their sightings will be providing critical data that will improve our knowledge of the ecology of oystercatchers and help advance the conservation of this vulnerable species.
To learn more about American Oystercatcher banding and how to identify a band and report a sighting, go online to amoywg.org/banding-re-sighting.
For questions, contact Corrie Folsom-O'Keefe, Audubon Connecticut Bird Conservation Programs Manager at firstname.lastname@example.org or 203-405-9116.