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Bluebird Color Banding Project

In addition to the Nest Box Project, WVWA started a color banding project in 2016 with nestling and adult eastern bluebirds.

Color bands make it possible for us to identify individual birds at a distance - known as “resighting." A combination of banding and resighting data allows us to gain a greater understanding of a bird’s life – things like how they interact with others of their species, where they spend their time, and their movements within a landscape.

More specifically, color banding allows us to identify which birds are on site and when, and thereby determine their site occupancy across seasons, whether there are local or migratory movements in a population and, of course, whether a breeding pair stays together and returns to the same breeding place each year (their nest site fidelity).

Since we’re color banding bluebird nestlings, we will easily be able to determine if young born on our preserves stick around over the winter - their winter site fidelity - as well as whether or not they return next year to the same site where they were born (this is called “natal philopatry”).

These are all important aspects of bluebird life history, and yet there are many unanswered questions; for conservationists, knowing the answers and better understanding a species means we will also better understand its needs across a season, and therefore manage our lands more effectively.

Interested in contributing? It’s easy, and we need your help!

Any time you visit Crossways Preserve, keep an eye out for color banded bluebirds, and report sightings to us by emailing margaret@wvwa.org. Include as many details on what you saw as possible – time and date, location on the preserve, habitat type the bird was seen in, its behavior, etc. If you see a color banded bluebird anywhere in Montgomery County, do the same!

To read and record color bands, look from the perched bird’s left leg to its right leg, and from top to bottom. For example, the bands on the adult male at Crossways (pictured above, left) are read “green over silver, blue over yellow,’ and the adult female’s (above, right) as “green over silver, white over black.”

In short form, these can be recorded at GS/BY and GS/WBK.

The color of the band over the USGS band (left leg) will change each year, so that we can quickly determine in which year the observed bird was banded. 

2016 = Green

2017 = Blue

2018 = Yellow


Color codes:

G = Green           B = Blue          R = Red          BK = Black           W = White         Y = Yellow            Gr = Gray           LB = Light Blue           O= Orange


The color combinations for the above nestling would be recorded as GS/GBK and GS/WG, respectively. 

We appreciate hearing of any sightings!