Biocore Prairie Bird Banding Station

Biocore Prairie Bird Observatory

The Biocore Prairie Bird Banding Station is an all-volunteer operation that monitors bird populations in the Preserve, above Picnic Point.   We welcome volunteers of all skill levels, and will teach volunteers how to band birds. Banding offers a wonderful opportunity for people to see birds up close, learn about their migration and nesting patterns, and understand how natural areas enhance their biological success.  The Station provides opportunities for students to do research projects in the summer, and for individuals to use as a research resource. 

Objectives of the Project:

1.  To follow changes in the bird species composition with changes in prairie restoration.
2.  To provide a research and teaching resource for natural history studies utilizing live animals.
3.  To collaborate with Dr. Janet Huie, Carthage College, on collection of ticks associated with Lyme Disease.

Volunteers usually band birds at least one morning each weekend, weather permitting (above 50 degrees, no precipitation), from late March-April through early November.   Mara McDonald, an ornithologist and master bander, supervises and trains volunteers, including UW students, staff, retirees, and members of the Madison community.  Each bird is caught in a mist net, carefully removed, measured (weight, age, sex, and a variety of other measurements), banded and released. 

Past and present volunteers include Pat Becker, Richard Clark, Katie Fitzmeier, Rachel Hart, Kendra Johnson, Anjan Kaushik, Anne Lacy, Roma Lenehan, Jeff Lorch, Holly McEntee, Sarah Pabian, Gaylord Plummer, Nolan Pope, Wilma Ross, Dietrich Schaaf, Jerry Simmons, and many others.

Between 2001 and 2006, more than 1394 birds of 70+ species were netted.  The most commonly banded species were Song Sparrow (184; 15.2 % recapture rate), White-throated Sparrow (158; 7.6%), Gray Catbird (117; 12.8%), American Goldfinch (109; 3.7%) and Chipping Sparrows (63; 1.6%).  Fourteen species of warblers, including Connecticut and Mourning, and 11 species of Sparrows, including Lincoln’s (20), White-crowned (4) and Fox (4) were banded.  In order to see what bird species were netted in which months, please see:

To see the number of species captured in each month, see:



For more information about volunteering or viewing bird banding, please contact Mara McDonald at

For more information on Biocore Prairie, see:

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