Monday, November 29, 2021

Looking for Banded Birds? Focus on Their Legs!

Photos by Jean Hall | Black Skimmers #C92 and #C48 showing Florida’s green band. DiNuovo banded these Black Skimmers as chicks on Sand Dollar Island back in 2017. This summer, they came back and each had a chick of their own.

If you are a frequent walker on Marco’s beaches, chances are you’ve seen a bird with an aluminum ring around its leg engraved with some letters or numbers. Sometimes thering is paired with a colored band. What does it mean? 

Adam DiNuovo has been banding Black Skimmer chicks at Sand Dollar Island since 2017. The Black Skimmer Banding Program is an all-volunteer project funded fully by the shorebird lectures Adam conducts at Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in Naples. In 2018, Marco’s Beach and Coastal Resources Advisory Committee funded portions of DiNuovo’s black skimmer banding project. 

Technology has evolved to include the use of geolocators, nanotag radio transmitters or solarpowered satellite tags. However, the old school method of using an aluminum ring is still being used in most of the banding world. 

According to DiNuovo, when a chick is caught, he handles it very carefully to avoid stress or injury. The chick is measured, weighed and examined for any signs of injury or illness. Since 2017, DiNuovo has banded up to 250 Black Skimmers. 

DiNuovo is hoping that the project will help shed some light on the Black Skimmers’movements, lifespan and survival. It is possible that the breeding colony stays in Florida making shorter and more local migrations. Black Skimmers are longlived birds, some surviving for 20 years. Some of his banded birds have been sighted in Pinellas County, Lake Okeechobee and the East Coast. 

Piping Plover #9D8 is federally threatened and was banded on June 15, 2015, near Tappen, North Dakota. It has spent each Winter in Marco arriving at the end of July till April feeding at the mudflats of Tigertail lagoon on low tide.

DiNuovo stated that you can find banded birds that live in Marco year-round and some “snowbirds” that only visit for the winter.  

Black Skimmer C48: this bird showFlorida’s green band. DiNuovo banded this Black Skimmer as a chick on Sand Dollar Green in 2017. This year, she came back and had a chick of her own. Our Florida winter flocks often contain birds from Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey and the Carolinas and are usually found in front of Residents Beach and JW Marriott. 

Red Knot 6C9this bird was banded on Harbor Island, South Carolina on October 18 back in 2011, and has been seen in Florida, South Carolina and New Jersey. Red Knots migrate up to 18,000 miles a year traveling between the wintering grounds in Argentina and the breeding grounds on the Arctic tundra. The lagoon and mudflats of Marco Island serve as their last refueling stopover before making their final flight to their Arctic breeding ground.  

Piping Plover 9D8: for the federally threatened Piping PloverMarco Island and theTigertail lagoon are critical habitat for them. Piping Plover 9D8’s yellow flag lets us know it is from the Northern Great Plains where it was banded on June 15, 2015, nearTappen, North Dakota. It has spent each Winter on Marco arriving at the end of July and staying until early April. Keep an eye on the mudflats in the Tigertail lagoon on a falling tide and you might see Piping Plover 9D8. 

What to Do If You See A Banded Black Skimmer on Our Beaches 

According to DiNuovo, bring a pair of binoculars to the beach and whenever you see a colony of black skimmers, focus on their legs. Look for Florida’s green bands with a white letter C, followed by a series of numbers. Take a photonote the location and time and send your sightings to Adam DiNuovo at  

What to Do If You Found A Dead Banded Bird 

You can report dead banded birds to the USGS Bird Banding Laboratory Follow the instructions on the website. You’ll need the band number,the where and when, and if the bird is already dead. You can remove and keep the band after reporting it.  

Adam DiNuovo is the Lee/Collier Shorebird Program Manager and has been working with seabirds and shorebirds across the United States for over 15 years.

Black Skimmers #C92 and #C48 showing Florida’s green band. DiNuovo banded these Black Skimmers as chicks on Sand Dollar Island back in 2017. This summer, they came back and each had a chick of their own.

      Band Colors & State 

  • Green (FL) 
  • Orange (MA) 
  • Yellow (NY) 
  • Blue (NJ) 
  • White (VA)  
  • Red (TX and others)


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *