Posted | filed under Weekly Banding Reports.

In celebration of the wonderful weather I am sitting out on my deck to write my article today. As I write, the pair of tree swallows that nested in my birdhouse are busily coming and going with mouths full of insects to feed to their hungry chicks. These swallows seem remarkably brave little birds. They don’t seem to care that my entire street is being torn apart by heavy machinery for repairs, or that my yard doesn’t have any cover, or that I live on a busy corner; they tolerate my presence just feet away from their nest but don’t hesitate to dive-bomb me if they think I have gotten too close. The quality parenting exhibited by my tree swallows isn’t an exception in the bird world – it is pretty much the rule. Birds are some of the most dedicated parents you will ever find. They will go to great lengths to protect their eggs and commit themselves fully to feeding the chicks once they hatch. For most species of migratory songbird, the babies need to be fed every 10-15 minutes for 12-14 hours a day! This is one of the main reason that birds migrate here in the first place, our bountiful insect population and long summer days allow them to keep up to the demands of their voracious young. This brings me to my annual bird public-service announcement: please leave baby birds alone. Every year, millions of young birds are ‘rescued’ by well-meaning individuals who believe the chicks have been abandoned. Young birds often leave the nest before they are able to fly as an instinctual behaviour to reduce the chance of all the chicks being killed if the nest is predated on; as soon as they can walk they leave the crowded nest. The adult birds continue to diligently feed all the individual chicks and defend the area against predators until the chicks are able to fly and forage without help. So if you see young birds on the ground or perched in shrubs just leave them be, their parents may have flown as far as 4000 km to have them and will sooner die than abandon them! With that important message out of the way, I will give a brief update on our banding activities. We have just finished up the third round of MAPS (Monitoring Avian Productivity and survivorship) banding this morning and although I knew we were doing well, I was blown away when I tallied up how many birds we have banded so far. We still have another three rounds to go and at 155 birds banded we have already surpassed last year’s total. We have actually surpassed the four years’ totals. This morning we were contemplating what could be the reason for the excellent banding during this year’s MAPS season and we think it could be due to the caterpillars. With no foliage left in the canopy all the birds are likely foraging low in the shrubs where they are in range of our nets. So, let me be the first to say it: thank you forest tent caterpillars.