Chris Anchor had just returned from trapping coyotes when he called early in the morning about the newly released Interactive Bird Banding Map in Cook County Forest Preserves.
The conversation turned to bird banding, but got largely off track.
Forest reserves band most birds – passerines, birds of prey, waterfowl, waterfowl – except for federally listed birds.
“Two birds stand out,” said Anchor, a wildlife biologist for Forest Reserves since 1987.
The first was a Rough-legged Hawk banded in February 1981 and found five years later in the regional county of Minganie in Canada.
“It was picked up by a native Canadian, who doesn’t know what tribe, and he ate it,” Anchor said. “He gave the band back.”
There was the banded great egret fledged at the Baker Lake heron colony in 2014, then found less than a year later at Cape Canaveral, where it was trapped and released by a federal biologist.
Forest Preserves staff typically ring between five and twenty sandhill cranes, depending on factors such as weather, each year. Two of them were harvested legally, in Kentucky and Tennessee.
“A guy called, he was so excited,” Anchor said. “Out of a group of 1,500 birds, they shot the one that’s banded.”
Osprey banding varies similarly, usually from 10 to 20; but only six last year.
“When banding ospreys, we check for heavy metals in the blood,” Anchor said.
This is remarkable because heavy metals last a relatively short time in the blood, as opposed to much longer in the tissues. Heavy metal levels in chicks are valuable as a real-time environmental assessment of the area, as parents are assumed to collect food nearby.
Forest Reserves claims “the most successful urban osprey program of its kind in North America, with 20 osprey nesting platforms.”
It’s a healthy sign
“Everything in my office is disease-based,” Anchor said.
It is important to note. It is not just an academic pursuit, but of practical importance in handling animals, pests, and how disease spreads across the landscape.
An example of the importance of tracking zoonotic diseases, those that can spread across species, is avian flu, which recently re-emerged in Indiana.
Anchor said banding and testing shorebirds, which may be intercontinental travelers, is one way to track bird flu. History shows that bird flu is less of a concern in North America where humans do not generally live with livestock.
“The basis is zoonotic diseases,” Anchor said. “Everyone can see the benefit. Someone must be on the ground to collect.
“I keep ultra-cold freezers in my office and I have blood samples going back decades. . . . [It’s] like a library going back decades.
With modern advancements, a tiny bit is needed for assessments, such as lead testing.
They study zoonotic diseases that affect not only humans but pets as well.
Transmitters and tapes help gather vital information. Transmitters on local double-crested cormorants found two groups: one was hunting locally, another group was heading to the Illinois River and Mississippi River.
“Why go so far?” Anchor asked. “Who knows why they were doing it.”
This is important because after a meal of invasive carp, cormorants will lose eDNA. If this invasive carp eDNA shows up in surveys in the wrong place, it can trigger unnecessary mass searches for bighead and silver carp.
A practical aspect of the interactive map is to both inform the public and keep them up to date with what officials are doing.
Or, as Anchor put it, “I use it as a tool to attract audiences. We all know birds migrate to school.”
Enjoy the interactive map on storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/a8d2e11a84cc4e439a9423f93b481813.