Sign In | Create an Account | Welcome, . My Account | Logout | Subscribe | Submit News | Contact Us | Home RSS

Bird banding in full force across Iowa

June 26, 2010
By Garry Brandenburg, Times-Republican

CANADA GEESE were the targeted capture species this week across Iowa. Wildlife management staff from the Iowa DNR was filling quotas for banding in each district. For the staff from Otter Creek Marsh, Green Castle was their last stop locally as the geese banded here were more than enough to fill the required need. Several stops In Poweshiek and Tama Counties started off the quota for 2010. In all, about 200 bands were applied to young of the year gosling Canada geese.

Late June each year is the prime time to capture and band geese. The molting process is well underway as new wing flight feathers grow in as old feathers fall out. Adult geese will be not capable of flight for a brief time. Geese that do fly are very much hindered by a lack of full strength new feathers. In other words, the flights will be short.

Young of the year goslings cannot fly at this time but their first flights are coming soon enough. All the birds hang out near water areas where they can escape predators. Once the new compliment of fresh feathers are in place by September, the geese will be taking practice flights in order to get ready for migration.

Article Photos

Canada Geese were captured for leg banding at Marshall County’s Green Castle Recreation Area on Tuesday afternoon this week. The roundup captured 35 geese, 4 that already had bands from previous events, and 31 young goslings from this years hatch. Approximately 10 enthusiastic kids helped hold the geese for banding and then escorted them to the lake edge for release.

DNR capture techniques involve a smooth wire capture pen staked to the ground on shore. From it are two light weight plastic snow fence leads set in a "Y" shape, or funnel. Geese slated for capture are usually swimming in the water so two sport canoes with small outboard motors are used to carefully guide the geese toward the capture area. At the end of the funnel, the smooth wire pen looks like an 'escape route' to a lead goose. If all goes as planned, she will walk right into the trap. All other geese will follow like sheep. When all the geese are in the pen, the gate is closed. Now the individual birds are brought out for identification of their sex and a band applied to the leg. The band number is recorded for history and evaluation in years to come as band recoveries come in from hunters.

Canada geese are native to North America. Their correct name is Canada goose, not Canadian goose, a frequent error this author hears way too often. All Canada geese are conspicuous for the white cheek patch on an otherwise black head and neck. The body feathers are gray except for a white rump. Tail feathers are black with a white band.


SANDHILL CRANES are doing well in Iowa. There is a slow expansion of breeding pairs along the Iowa River Corridor from Otter Creek Marsh. At Otter Creek, there are three known nests, one nest with two young and two nests with one chick each. It is believed that the local cranes are part of the Midwest population centered in Wisconsin. The really big concentrations of Sandhills that funnel through central Nebraska each March go to the far northern reaches of all Canadian provinces to breed and raise their young.

If you want to see, or listen for the cranes at Otter Creek, do come equipped with good binoculars and/or a spotting scope. From the public parking area on the east side of the marsh, walk northwest along the levee and look for the birds in the northern wetland segments. Enjoy your time outdoors this summer looking and listening for Sandhill Cranes.


BALD EAGLE young are leaving or have left their nests, flying for the first time into the great blue sky that they will soon learn to master. Last Monday, I viewed the eagle web camera for the nest near Decorah. The three fully grown eaglets were hopping about the nest. A few days later, a re-check of the website had pictures of an empty nest. Fledging is the term used by biologists to indicate that young birds have flown away.

The young eagles are far from being self sufficient. The parent birds will still bring them food and demonstrate flying techniques to help the young learn. Watching adult eagles fly, hunt and capture fish is the best way for eaglets to find out how to do the work for themselves. There will come a time later this summer when the adults will not participate or assist the young when they give out a hunger call. It is nature's method to force the eaglets to find their own food. It works.


WOOD DUCK nests have hatched also. Those little bouncing balls of downy feathers cushion the young when they hop out of a tree cavity or a manmade nest box. Mom woody leads the young to water in old river channels or area ponds. Here the young feed on insect larvae, small invertebrates and bugs as they grow fast. In late August, capturing and banding wood ducks will take place. Baited traps are left open during the day. Once the wood ducks are coming to the trap regularly, the entrance holes are carefully rigged to prevent exiting. Then in the dark of night, DNR crews will come to the trap site and begin the banding and recording process. Stay tuned to a time a date later this summer when you and your family can participate in the banding of wood ducks. Call Mike Stegmann at the Marshall County Conservation Board 641-752-5490 for the likely times and places for banding.


PEREGRINE FALCON young are taking to the air also. In downtown Des Moines, at the cliffs near McGregor, or other tall buildings in Iowa's largest cities, Peregrines have nested and repeated the ages old cycle of new life.

The modern day recovery of peregrine falcons is a great conservation achievement. In 2010, a total of sixteen active peregrine territories have been documented in Iowa. More exist along the Mississippi bluffs of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois.


Locally, if you find a young bird of any species on the ground or apparently parentless, just leave well enough alone. The adult parent birds are well aware of their job and will tend to the duties of parenthood. People just need to get out of the way, observe from a distance, and allow the cycle of new life as young birds learn the strategies to survive in the big new world.


There are still a few spaces available in the MCCB's Rain Barrel Workshop to be held on July 10 at Green Castle. For the $25 fee, you get all materials and instructions to make your own rain barrel. Call 752-5490 to reserve a spot. Registrations and payment of the fee are due by July 1.

July 7 is the date for the next preschool story hour at the GrimesFarm & Conservation Center. The theme for this session is Busy Bees. The story hour is held the first and third Wednesday of each month from 10 to 11 a.m.

Plan now to join the MCCB Brown Bag Bunch on July 20 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. for a tour of the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge. The group will carpool from the Grimes Farm & Conservation Center. Register by July 12 by calling 752-5490.


Garry Brandenburg is a graduate of Iowa State University with BS degree in Fish & Wildlife Biology. He is the retired director of the Marshall County Conservation Board. Contact him at PO Box 96, Albion, IA 50005.



I am looking for: