Field Notes: Cormorant Banding on Swinburne Island

Cormorant Chicks © Don Riepe

Summer intern Darren Klein reports on a recent field expedition:


On June 20th, a team of NYC Audubon staff, interns, and volunteers traveled to Swinburne Island to band young double-crested cormorants. This long-abandoned island, at various times home to a quarantine hospital and a Merchant Marine training station, has in recent decades become a popular nesting site for a variety of sea birds, including the double-crested cormorant. Once an imperiled species, the double-crested cormorant has made a tremendously successful comeback in recent years. In order to gain a better understanding of this recovery, NYC Audubon has been banding cormorants on Swinburne Island since 2006.


After arriving on the island, the team scouted the various cormorant nesting sites–the birds had built a large cluster of nests on the ground, but many more were up in the island’s few remaining trees, and all were full of young birds. The largest chicks were removed from the nests and brought to a holding pen in a nearby clearing, where they waited their turn to be banded. The birds were carefully wrapped in towels and held while each of their legs received a different identification band. The numbers on the bands were recorded, and then each bird was returned to their nest. In total, the team was able to band 85 birds during their three-hour visit.


-Darren Klein


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