By Megan Plete Postol
The longevity record for black-capped chickadees has been broken by a bird in Inlet.
Banded and documented by retired forest ranger Gary Lee, the record-smashing bird’s age was logged at 11 years and nine months. This one broke the previous record of 11 years and six months set by a bird in Minnesota in 2011.
The data was recorded in early spring and then sent to a bird banding laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, for confirmation. The lab sent verification about a month later that the Adirondack chickadee was, indeed, the oldest one recorded in the United States.
“About eleven in the morning a light rain had just started, and I went out to pull my net,” Lee said. “There in the bottom trammel of the net was this little chickadee, and as I took it from the net, I could see by the band number that it was the 2009 bird. I took it inside and checked the number and sure enough it was this old bird. I measured the wing cord, took a quick picture of the bird in hand and released it back out the window. I knew then that I had set a new longevity record for a black-capped chickadee.”
Lee first caught this specific black-capped chickadee in November 2009. He banded it with band number 2590-85187. That year it was recorded as its hatch year, with a wing cord measured at 64 centimeters.
Lee’s records indicate that he caught this chickadee 18 more times throughout the years, the last time being when the record age was logged this spring. Over the years, its wing cord had grown to 67 centimeters.
“Little did I know I would see and catch this bird for several more years. Most banders never have a longevity record and some have banded all their adult life.”-Gary Lee, bird bander and retired forest ranger
He has been banding birds at his home, Eight Acre Wood in Inlet, since 2006. In that time he has banded nearly 9,000 birds.
“The most unusual bird for here would be a Carolina wren, a bird that has been moving north with climate change,” Lee said. “I’ve also caught a few northern shrikes who come around the feeders trying to catch the little birds during the winter and get caught themselves.”
Bird banding in New York State requires a Federal Bird Banding License and a Special NYS-DEC Collection or Process-Banding License. Lee helped band birds for several years both at the Crown Point Banding Station and on Four Brothers Islands under Master Bander J.M.C. “Mike” Peterson before he was granted a license to band at his home.
Lee was a NYS DEC forest ranger in the West Canada Lakes and at Limekiln Lake for a total of 33 years and has been retired for 22 years. During retirement, he has worked for the Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation. He is a co-author of “Adirondack Birding: 60 places to find birds in the Park,” with Peterson.
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Cute for 11 years!! So interesting and informative. Thanks