Banding is critical to the long-term study of migratory birds, including White Terns. To help improve our understanding of the movements of Honolulu’s population of White Terns the Hui Manu-o-Kū has begun to band White Tern chicks. The best time to do that is just before they reach the stage of development where they’re able to fly. After the dramatic increase in breeding activity that we saw beginning in October, chicks are starting to reach that stage now.
In the past two weeks, with help from Dr. Eric VanderWerf of Pacific Rim Conservation and Lake Gibby of Imua Landscaping, we've banded four chicks. Lake is a professional arborist who is lending his ability to adroitly climb trees to reach and retrieve nesting chicks. Eric, who is a certified bander, attaches a silver colored metal band with a unique identifying number to one of the chick’s legs. This band will allow anyone who finds the bird in the future to learn where and when it was banded. We’re also attaching colored bands to the birds to help anyone studying white tern behavior to differentiate one bird from another.
Not many of Honolulu’s White Terns are banded, but now there are four more that will soon be flying about the city and out to sea. As more chicks come of age the Hui Manu-o-Kū will be working to further add to the number of banded White Terns. Having more banded birds in the White Tern population will improve the ability of research projects, including the Hui’s citizen science initiative, to make meaningful contributions to what is known about the behavior of this species. It’s a small investment now that can pay big dividends in the future.
Earlier this year a White Tern incubating an egg in a tree in front of the central post office in downtown Honolulu was discovered to be banded. We sent the number recovered from the band to the Bird Banding Laboratory at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center and learned that this white tern had been banded in 1981 near Diamond Head. At 35 years of age, this bird had lived twice the average lifespan for a white tern… and was still laying eggs! Who knows what the manu-o-Kū we band now will help citizen scientists and other researchers learn about these amazing birds in the future.