This is our male blue-grey tanager (Thraupis episcopus). Although there is no obvious sexual dimorphism (physical differences between males and females) within this species, we know who is who because our male and female are banded differently.
Our male is wears a blue band on his right leg with the number 14:
His mate wears a silver band on her right leg with the number 99 and a white band on her left leg. All of the birds in our Rainforest Exhibit have leg band color combinations unique to their species and in some cases, do not wear a band at all if they are the only individual of their species, or, the only sex of their species and sexual dimorphism exists. This allows our biologists to easily identify individuals and tell males apart from females.
We have several different sizes of leg bands because some of our birds have bigger legs than others. Here is a picture of one of our smaller bands:
Our birds wear their bands much like a person wears a bracelet or an anklet- the bands are narrow enough so they don’t slip off, but wide enough so our birds feel comfortable . Banding a bird is just a matter of slipping the band on. This is a picture of two biologists banding a juvenile silver-beaked tanager (Ramphocelus carbo):
Although we have multiple bananaquits (Coereba flaveola) on exhibit, we know that this is the more dominant female with a history of successful reproduction because she has a pink band on her left leg:
Two female red-legged honeycreepers (Cyanerpes cyaneus) can be confusing, but we know which female is which because one is banded pink on her left leg, while the other is banded orange on her left leg:
Again, not all of our birds are banded. Our male and female red-shouldered tanagers (Tachyphonus phoenicius) are the only pair of their species on exhibit, and look very different from each other. Female red-shouldered tanagers are dark grey with a light grey “mustache” and belly, while this is what the male looks like:
With these bands, we can easily see what each bird is up to every day and document their health and behavior:
Because there are a lot of other Academy staff that work in the Rainforest Exhibit, we also have a method of identifying bird nesting sites that need to be carefully worked around. By gluing pictures of our birds onto small magnets…
we are able to place the magnets onto a map of the Rainforest for all staff to see. This way, everyone knows which birds are nesting where. When this picture was taken, a pair of bananaquits and opal-rumped tanagers (Tangara velia) were nesting in the peach palm:
By banding birds and keeping track of bird nesting sites, biologists are able to better identify each individual bird, their health and their behaviors. Without bird bands and a bird nesting map, how would you be able to tell which individuals within a species were responsible for the nest below?