We have been banding and researching birds at the Powdermill Avian Research Center (PARC) since 1961. We welcome many visitors to PARC throughout the year to see our operation. Our visitors represent all ages and levels of knowledge about birds and include individuals, small groups, families, school groups (elementary through college-level), and researchers.
A visit to our lab allows you to observe the trained staff as they identify, band, age, measure, and weigh birds as they are captured that day. If time and conditions allow, visitors can accompany our researchers on a net check to see how the birds are caught. Visitors who do a PARC tour will learn about our past and current research projects including our work with the Motus wildlife tracking system and how we research bird-safe glass in an effort to reduce bird-window collisions. You’ll learn about how we analyze our long-term dataset to look at population trends and changes in behavior, and hear about birds that we’ve banded that have been recaptured or found in places as far away as Peru! We often host graduate students or visiting researchers working on new and exciting projects, and visitors may even have the chance to meet scientists from other countries.
If you would like to visit the banding lab, timing is important. Although we do band year-round, spring (mid-April – May) and fall (September – October) migration offer the greatest diversity and numbers of birds. Nevertheless, each season has something to offer: researchers have banded more than 175 species at Powdermill’s banding station and well over 200 species can be seen in the diverse habitat near the banding lab. Spring migration brings the showiest birds: you can admire birds freshly molted into their dapper and colorful breeding plumage. In the summer you can see birds in breeding condition and find out what a young fledgling looks like. During fall migration you’ll see birds in their basic (non-breeding) plumage and learn how to identify those confusing fall warblers. In the winter you can meet some of your bird feeder favorites and learn about longevity as we recapture birds banded in previous winters.
We open our nets one half hour before sunrise and close them six hours later. Because birds are the most active in the morning, an hour or two after dawn is typically the best time to visit. The Banding Lab is small and can fit about 10-15 people. If you have over 20 participants, we can accommodate your group (up to 50 visitors) by dividing into smaller groups that will rotate through our stations (banding, bird capture, and glass research). Keep in mind that banding is weather-dependent and plans can change at the last minute if there is inclement weather such as rain or high winds. Even high temperatures can force us to close early.
If you are interested in visiting the lab, we would love to share our passion for birds with you, but it is important to call and make arrangements. To schedule a visit or book a PARC tour, please call the Banding Lab (724.593.7521) or email our Bird Banding Program Manager, Annie Lindsay. If you are bringing a group to Powdermill, you may also want to speak with our Environmental Educator and Naturalist, Sara Klingensmith, about other programs Powdermill has to offer (724.593.6105). We also have several free public days at the banding station throughout the year. Please watch Powdermill’s facebook page (search for “Powdermill Nature Reserve”) for announcements about our upcoming public days.