The Occoquan Bay Bird Banding Station opened on April 8, 2001. Over 6,000 birds from 93 species have been banded through
2010. The station is run by trained volunteers under the authority of the refuge and a permit from the U. S. Geological Survey. The shelter was built by Dominion Virginia Power volunteers in 2005. Bands, nets, and other specialized equipment are provided by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the banding volunteers, and the Friends of the Potomac River Refuges.
The majority of the birds banded at the station are passerine or perching birds, which includes songbirds. A list of all the species banded at the station through 2010 is available.
Bird Banding is an essential tool used by researchers to understand the amazing lives and travels of birds. The first instance on record of bird banding occurred in 1595, when the King of France attached a metal band on the leg of his Peregrine Falcon, a bird commonly used for hunting during that age. This bird escaped, but showed up a day later 1350 miles away in Malta. It traveled 56 miles per hour! Today, bird banding occurs worldwide, and over 63 million birds have been banded in the United States since the practice was started in 1902.
The Patuxent Bird Banding Laboratory answers the question with this:
Bird banding data are useful in both research and management projects. Individual identification of birds makes possible studies of dispersal and migration, behavior and social structure, life-span and survival rate, reproductive success and population growth.
Each bird banded at the Occoquan site will be examined to obtain the following information:
- Length of wing and tail
- Breeding readiness
- Body fat
- Feather condition
This information is sent to the national database in Laurel, Maryland. The national database is managed by the U. S. Geological Survey's Bird Banding Laboratory at a facility on the Patuxent Research Refuge and maintains the data from all banding stations throughout the US. Data is also exchanged with similar organizations in Canada, Mexico and South America.
Here is just a sampling of what you might see at the bird banding station!
The Station is open during Spring migration (Mar. 24 - May 20, 2012), during Refuge hours, on Wednesdays, Saturdays, Sundays and occasional Fridays, from 7am to approximately 11:30am, weather permitting. Updated dates of operations will be listed here as they become known. The station is also open during the Annual Fall Festival in mid-October. Visitors are encouraged to visit whenever the station is open.
Drive in and park in the main parking lot in the center of Occoquan Bay NWR. On foot, trace your entrance back down Dawson Beach Road until you reach the first dirt road on your left. Turn left here onto Deephole Point Road. Walk approximately 5-10 minutes, and then look for the station off to your right. There will most likely be parked cars (banders only, please) - take the walking path to the small wooden pavilion.