Tuesday, August 16, 2005

A Single Banded Foot

Walking, tracking, birding and now blogging, I'm getting a reputation as a go-to girl for natural history mysteries. A case in point: A friend of mine found this on July 27, 2005, on his daily walk on County Road 13 in Prince Edward County, and saved it for me:

Ontario Breeding Atlas Square 18UP36 -- Region 20
Easting 335700, Northing 4866800, NAD 83

I was excited when I first saw it--a mystery foot (small raptor?), and banded. I should be able to track this down!

But after a little research I realized that what I needed was the standard aluminum band that every banded bird receives, the one with the information on it. The Ontario Field Ornithologists link page has a bunch of links to sites that deal with banding. The two biggies are the USGS page and Environment Canada's Bird Banding Office.

I think what we have here is a colour code of some kind, keyed to the species and research purpose for which this bird was banded. The standard band must have been on the other leg--now probably in the scat or other casting of a turkey vulture, coyote, fox....whoever.

Recognize this foot?

The rule in the photograph is marked in centimetres. I am hoping that if I can identify the species, I might be able to track the research purpose from that.

Another view

The foot has four toes, three forward, one back. There is a claw on each (one has broken off).

The nail itself is about a centimetre long. The middle forward toe is 3 centimetres, the side toes, 2 centimetres and the backward facing toe, 1.5 centimetres (all measurements not including the nail).

One last look

So that's it--a colour code and a foot, both out of context. Please leave a comment if either means anything to you--or if you have an idea about how I could track this further.


Anonymous said...

this looks to me like it might be a breeder's tag -- i'd guess it might have been on a Ring-necked Pheasant, or a quail. these are not recorded by federal bird-banding offices.

just a guess . . . from a longtime bander

Dave Dorsey said...


Be careful. I'm not sure what your local laws are in Ontario, but here in the US all parts of all wild birds to include feathers, nest, etc. are not permited in possession without permits from USF&W and local game agencies.

It does look like you have a good mystery going on there.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Tony (a bander! yet another thing we have in common), a game bird or a pigeon, but the foot doesn't seem right for a pigeon. Looks like it had a bad case of avian pox.

Pamela Martin said...

Thanks Tony and Nuthatch for your comments.

A breeder's tag...interesting. I don't think the foot is big enough for a pheasant--but according to Olaus Murie's A Field Guide to Animal Tracks a pheasant track would show claw prints, which I would expect this foot to show, so maybe this class of fowl is a possibility. Though it's hard to know of course what its track would look like without seeing the foot in use--in particular, hard to know if the back toe would print.

Avian pox? If only I had the resources to perform a proper necropsy--to distinguish between the signs of decomposition and premortem conditions!

Pamela Martin said...

Dave, thanks for the comment.

Interesting about the law in the United States--rather draconian...

I don't know what the laws about random parts, discarded feathers or old nests are in Ontario. Federal laws would only apply to federal endangered (and others of concern) species or migrating birds, at least as I understand the situation. And they are mostly if not entirely concerned with the living.

I do know that the laws in Ontario make it quite difficult to transport living wild animals to rescue centres--i.e., it is illegal to do so without a permit. And if you are involved in the accidental death of a game species (deer, grouse, etc.) you are responsible for reporting the incident and then either eating the animal or turning it over to the authorities so that they can give it to someone else to eat. I did break that law once, when a grouse killed itself hitting the window of my house--I buried it knowing neither how to clean it nor that it had to be reported.

I guess as so often happens legislators with only good intentions came up with a strange and overly broad law. On the one hand, it's not a good idea for everyone to be taking everything nest, feather, body, etc., out of the wild--it doesn't need that kind of tidying up. On the other hand, if you, as a regular citizen, find, for example, a dead banded bird what are you expected to do? Take the band off in the field? Call someone with a permit--as you are supposed to do here if you find a wild animal in trouble?

I am sympathetic to the problem of regulating human dealings with wildlife--we are inclined to do stupid things--as I suspect you would know better than I from your work at the Bird TLC. Hard to strike just the right balance.

Dave Dorsey said...


Actually the laws not that bad. The idea behind non-permited citizens not having artifacts is also to protect the birds and their homes from poachers.

In the US, if you find an injured bird or four legged animal, the citizen should call US Fish & Wildlife or their states equivalent. They may also call a rehab center, but not many are set up to go retrieve birds or animals.

Some citizens do retrieve wounded birds and bring them into us. We advise against that when it comes to large birds and raptors. They are not covered by the law, but no one should cause a problem if they are taking them to a rahab center.

In Alaska, if you hit a bird or animal and it's killed, you must report it. If it's a bird or animal that's eatable, you must gut it on the spot and report it to the AK State Troopers. You must stay there until the trooper arrives. They then contact the local non-profit to retrieve it for it's meat. If you don't do the above, you can be fined for purposely waisting wild game meat.

Pamela Martin said...

Gut it on the spot!! Oh dear--and me with just a pen knife....

It used to be in Ontario that you had to turn over the deer or whatever to be donated somewhere--I guess on the theory that otherwise people might poach deer by hitting them with their cars--but the law changed a few years ago to allow people so inclined to keep what they hit. Friends of mine had a deer kill itself (at least they were pretty sure it was dead) running into the side of their moving car. They didn't know what to do, so drove to the nearby town to look for help. By the time they got back to the site with helpers (people who could field dress a deer) the deer was gone...