Bird Banding at Joppa Flats

Bird banding at Nashoba Brook

The Joppa Flats Education Center established its Bird Banding Station on Plum Island, part of the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, in May 1998. The station, located in Newbury, Massachusetts, is designed to monitor migratory passerines (songbirds) during spring and fall migrations. 

The Bird Banding Station is operated by the Station Manager and trained volunteers in April and May and in September and October.

The Joppa Flats Education Center established its banding station on Plum Island in cooperation with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. The island represents one of the most important stopover points along the East Coast for passerines during both spring and fall migrations. During our first 16 years of operations, we have banded and released over 36,000 birds.

Birds are captured using mist nets. During the banding procedure, our staff gather data on species, age, sex, and physical condition (e.g., fat status, mass, molt status, breeding readiness, and other important factors).


Cape May Warbler at Joppa Flats banding station
Cape May Warbler

To date, our goal has been to develop a database of the information gathered from all of the birds we capture, process, and release. Our long term goal is to monitor trends in bird populations and understand the relationships between the individual bird species and the habitats in which we capture them.

For every bird we capture or recapture, we record the specific net in which the bird was found. As a result, we are developing a database of bird species by location. By studying the relationships between selected bird species and habitat types, we hope to be able to inform management strategies for the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge that would benefit passerines.


Quite apart from the scientific value of the station, the impact on our educational mission has been enormous. Thousands of school children, birders, families, and educators have visited the station over the past years. These visits can change lives – seeing a magnolia warbler from inches away, in all its splendor, vivacity, and energy, can make nearly anyone appreciate the Nature of Massachusetts.

Get Involved

Operation of the banding station is one example of the work we do at Joppa Flats, which relies on the generosity of volunteers and supports. If you would like to get involved, please consider making a donation or volunteering your time.