Category Archives: Bird Banding

Tagging Turkey Vultures

Yesterday was a special day of banding at Rushton Farm.  The mist nets have been closed for a while, but instead, we got to witness the tagging of two juvenile Turkey Vultures!

The adventure began in early May during the spring passerine banding sessions, when Turkey Vultures were consistently seen perched not far from the station.  On a hunch, Lisa Kiziuk went investigating and found 2 large, white eggs.  The vultures were nesting in a well-concealed spot under a fallen tree.

Though busy with banding, Lisa occasionally checked on the vulture family, and several weeks later, was delighted to find two small, fluffy chicks standing upright.  This was a first confirmed breeding record for the species at Rushton Farm, and she was determined that they be banded once they were old enough.

Fast-forward to yesterday, when Bracken Brown and David Barber, licensed vulture banders from Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, journeyed down from the Appalachian ridge to Chester County to tag these birds.  Rushton banders Doris McGovern, Lisa Kiziuk and Blake Goll were thrilled to watch the process.

Bracken and David crawled deep into the dense tangle to retrieve the young chicks. From the edge of the woods we could hear the birds hissing, a noise that sounds like an old television’s snowy screen.  They emerged with each of the two fluffy white chicks in burlap bags, and carried them to the nearby banding table.

The first chick taken out of the bag immediately spewed a putrid mixture. This is a defense mechanism employed by vultures.  Luckily Bracken was well aware of this typical behavior and was holding the bird at arm’s length.

Bracken and David took measurements of wing length and body weight on each bird.  Their black flight feathers were just begining to grow in, contrasting nicely with their juvenile white down.  Their age was estimated at 36 days.  A blue, numbered tag was affixed to one wing on each bird.  Leg bands are not used on vultures, because the birds defacate down their legs, and the presence of leg bands could cause infections.

After many photographs and inspections from all angles, Rushton Farm’s first recorded Turkey Vuture chicks were returned safely to their abode, hopefully to fledge in another 4-7 weeks.

If you see a Turkey Vulture sporting a wing tag – #250, #301 or any other number – please note the date, location, and tag number.  Contact Hawk Mountain at, and give them the data.  Your sighting contributes to important information about the distribution and migration of Turkey Vultures.

all photos © adrian binns

Netting the Local Residents

This morning’s banding at Rushton Farm in Chester County, PA netted us several colorful local breeders. Wood Thrush (above) is a unaminous favorite with its rusty head, striking spots and beautiful song that we could hear him singing from the woods. They have just returned to their breeding grounds, after having spent the winter in Central America.Continue Reading

A Bird in the Hand….

A bird in the hand is worth a hundred binocular sightings, in my book.  There is something magical about seeing a live bird up close, just inches away. Most are far smaller than imagined, and all are breathtakingly beautiful, pulsing with life.  Such was my experience this glorious morning, during the hours I spent watchingContinue Reading

In the Midnight Hour……it’s a Hoot!

Though the nets were opened at dusk, it was not until the winds had died down and the hands on the clock crept towards midnight that a Saw-whet Owl was caught. I returned to Rushton Farm in Delaware County to join Doris, Lisa, Lou, Sheryl and Lauren for the hourly net check. It was aContinue Reading

Saw-whet Owl Banding Field Trip for Kids

On Saturday evening, I joined Debbie Beer who led a joint PA Young Birder’s Club and Delaware Dunlin’s field trip to experience Saw-whet Owl banding at the Hidden Valley Banding Station along the Kittitany Ridge of the Appalachian Mountains. Unexpectedly, the evening’s entertainment was not just provided by owls, but also came in the formContinue Reading

Banding at Rushton Farm

I stopped by this morning to see the Willistown Conservation Trust’s banding site at Rushton Farm in Newtown Square. The DVOC had pledged money towards the start up of this project, that is being run by club member Doris McGovern and assisted by Lisa Kiziuk and Alice Sevareid. There was a steady stream of birdsContinue Reading