Yosemite National Park provides essential habitat for over 165 species of migrating, wintering, and breeding birds, in addition to nearly 100 species recorded as transient or vagrant. For nearly two decades, the breeding populations of songbirds in Yosemite have been studied in one of the longest continuous research projects in the park. Each summer, from late May to early August, researchers work at bird banding stations throughout Yosemite. They collect valuable information about bird populations in Yosemite by capturing, banding, and then releasing birds following a strict scientific protocol. This year, this important work is being funded by the Yosemite Conservancy.
There are six banding stations which are located near important breeding habitat in meadows at a variety of elevations, from 4,000 to 8,000 feet above sea level. The researchers catch birds in mist nets consisting of a very fine mesh. For six hours, starting at sunrise, each banding station operates a series of mist nets that are set up near where birds are nesting or foraging. Mist netting is a passive capture method that traps only the birds that fly into it. The nets get checked on a regular basis to make sure the birds do not injure themselves. Special training is required to handle birds. Researchers have strict standards to follow when removing birds from nets and handle them with the utmost care to prevent injury.
The following photos show experienced bird researchers banding a variety of bird species. Visitors to Yosemite should never handle wild animals and should always maintain a safe distance when viewing wildlife.