Canadian Atlas of Bird Banding

General Overview – Volume 1: Doves, Cuckoos, and Hummingbirds through Passerines, 1921–1995, 2nd edition.
(Brewer et al., 2006)

The first edition of Volume 1 was published in paper copy in 2000, but is now out of print. The second edition is an electronic-only version of the original atlas which corrects errata detected in the first edition and has some new features. The "Summaries of banding statistics" now include numbers banded in Canada (1955-1995) as Hatch-Year or as After-Hatch-Year birds. The "Banding Summary" (Appendix 1 in the first edition) has been compressed, and no longer shows the numbers of birds encountered in each decade. These numbers were hard to interpret, as date of reporting was not always in the same decade as the actual encounter, and the revised appendix is now easier to read. Finally, the second edition is available both in French and English.

This volume covers the 227 species of small land birds that were banded or encountered in Canada from 1921 through 1995 (see full listing in Species Search). Of these, 133 species are treated with a full species account (these are species for which there was at least one encounter more than 100 km from the banding site).

For the 227 species covered in this volume, 2 502 063 individuals were banded in Canada between 1955 and 1995. (Numbers of birds banded prior to 1955 have not been entered into the electronic database.) Of these, 11 390 were later encountered, for an overall encounter rate of 0.5%. The encounter rate for individual species varied from less than 0.1% (e.g., Ruby-crowned Kinglet) to rates in the order of 3-5% for larger species (e.g., jays), to a maximum of 8% for Common Ravens. Small birds are encountered less often, in part because they are small (and therefore difficult to see) and are quickly eaten by scavengers, but also because the smallest bands have the return address on the inside of the band where few finders are likely to look for it (Hussell et al. 1993).

The amount of small bird banding has increased greatly since 1975 (see Species Search), particularly for the smallest birds (band size 0), of which more than 450 000 were banded from 1986 to 1995 compared with about 150 000 from 1966 to 1975. This increase is largely due to the adoption of mist nets as a bird-catching device in North America, but it may also reflect the growing number of high-volume migration monitoring stations in Canada.

In addition to the 11 390 encounters of birds banded in Canada between 1955 and 1995, this volume covers encounters of birds banded between 1921 and 1955 - but this adds only 1923 additional records (another indication of the rise in banding volume over time). On top of the 13 313 encounters of Canadian-banded birds from 1921 to 1995, this volume also includes 7294 cases of birds banded in other countries but encountered in Canada during the same time period.

The encounter maps show that small land birds are broad-front migrants that tend to follow the same flyways as waterfowl (Lincoln 1935). Migratory birds breeding in British Columbia tend to move west of the Rocky Mountains and along the Pacific coast. Those from the Prairie Provinces tend to move on a southeast-northwest axis, heading toward the south-eastern U.S. in fall. Ontario is in a transition zone, with birds tending to move more directly north-south, but with migrants passing over from more western and more eastern breeding areas. There is also some suggestion that individual migrants may take different routes through the Great Lakes in different years. Quebec and Maritimes birds have a more southwest-northeast axis of movement, generally moving parallel to the Atlantic coast.

The maps for the American Robin illustrate these typical patterns particularly well, but birds with far fewer encounters can show the same pattern (see maps for other thrush species and the American Redstart, for example). A few species show somewhat different patterns, as pointed out in the species accounts (e.g., White-crowned Sparrow, European Starling).

Although overall patterns of songbird migration are well illustrated by band encounters, it is clear that there are still enormous gaps in our knowledge of the migration and wintering areas of particular breeding populations, even after more than 75 years of nongame-bird banding in Canada. Over half the 227 species covered in this volume have 5 or fewer encounter records, and 75% have fewer than 30 records (Species Search). In many cases the available records are inadequate for defining wintering area or migration routes for the species as a whole, let alone for regional populations. Only 15% of the species have more than 100 encounter records.

This volume lists many individual records of birds encountered at some distance within a few days of banding, including a White-throated Sparrow that travelled 673 km in a single day. The maximum distance between the banding and encounter location of any individual of a species included in this volume was 7764 km for a Bank Swallow banded in Saskatchewan and recovered six years later in Bolivia.

Volume 1 should be cited as:

Brewer, A. D., A. W. Diamond, E. J. Woodsworth, B. T. Collins, and E. H. Dunn. 2006. Canadian Atlas of Bird Banding, Volume 1: Doves, Cuckoos, and Hummingbirds through Passerines, 1921-1995, second edition [online]. Canadian Wildlife Service Special Publication. Available from Environment Canada through the Internet.

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