Eyes on the Skies (WSJCANC)


Participants will see how federal and state agencies manage bird populations in the nation. They will use bird-banding pliers while learning how Arkansas Game and Fish Commission biologists use bands and tracking devices to monitor birds. They will learn how these data are collected and reported and how citizens may participate.

Grade Level:

4 - 12

Recommended Setting:

Indoor and outdoor classroom

Outdoor Activity:



Witt Stephens Junior Central Arkansas Nature Center, Little Rock


Education Coordinator, 501-907-0636


45 - 60 minutes

Suggested Number of Participants:

10 - 30


  • Realize that the federal government and state agencies manage bird populations in the nation and sometimes partner with other national governments.
  • Learn how wildlife biologists use bird bands and tracking devices to monitor species populations and carrying capacity of suitable habitat.
  • Recognize the roles of hunters and bird watchers in reporting information to the monitoring agencies.

Key Terms*:

Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC)

Amendment 75 of 1996

Bird banding laboratory

Central Arkansas Nature Center (CANC)



Management plan

Migration corridors

Migratory bird

Migratory Bird Treaty Act

Mist net

Neotropical migrant


Wildlife biologist

*See glossary for definations


  • Banding pliers
  • Duck feet
  • Leg bands
  • 2007 MAPS banding data sheets (pages 37-38) and mist netting result sheets (page 55)
  • Mist net
  • Power Point of avian field work activities
  • Satellite transmitters
  • Stirring straws



More than 300 bird species live in Arkansas. Many are year-round residents while others are seasonal migrants. Federal and state agencies are involved in managing birds. The U.S. Geological Survey and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (each a bureau of the Department of Interior) work with state wildlife agencies to coordinate bird management. AGFC wildlife biologists collect and share data with this network.


  1. Introduce yourself and the CANC. Explain that it is owned and operated by AGFC and showcases the agency’s mission. Also tell how Amendment 75 of 1996 funds paid for the facility and allow free admission.
  2. After introducing the program, ask how many bird species live in Arkansas. State that more than 300 live here at some time during the year. Explain the difference between year-round residents and seasonal residents. Migratory birds such as waterfowl and neotropical migrants are seasonal residents.
  3. Transition to the Power Point by telling them they will participate in a bird management exercise after the presentation. Use the Power Point slides to show biologists gathering data from birds. Show the bands and pliers, transmitters and mist net during the presentation so they can see these tools.
  4. Tell how AGFC cooperates with federal agencies, conservation groups and citizens to gather information to manage this diverse number of species. Distribute the MAPS banding data sheet and mist netting results to show how this information is collected and submitted nationally.
  5. Point out that the bird banding laboratory collects all U.S. data from bird bands, including that collected by state agencies, conservation groups and citizens. Ask how a person might contribute banding information. Hunters can report information from bands on game birds, bird watchers can report information from banded birds they see, etc.
  6. Give each participant two or three stirring straws and small leg bands. Tell them the straws will represent a small bird leg. Show them how to use the banding pliers to attach a band to a straw. Ask how wildlife biologists capture small birds to band, and point out the mist net if they cannot remember.
  7. Distribute the duck feet, leg bands and pliers. Explain that ducks are migratory waterfowl, although some specimens can be year-round residents. Tell participants that there are four migratory corridors, or flyways, in North America. Ask which flyway goes through Arkansas (Mississippi Flyway), Point out that Arkansas has been known for its premier waterfowl hunting, and the state regularly has the most mallards harvested in the United States. Allow participants to attach the leg bands to the duck feet.
  8. Review the cooperation among federal and state governments, conservation groups and citizens to manage wild bird populations. Encourage participants to support conservation efforts such as these and to get involved. Tell them their teacher will have more information available in the post-visit packet.



  • Have participants access the bird banding laboratory website at www.pwrc.usgs.gov for recent statistics on banded birds. Use them to create math lessons.
  • Develop a question sheet based on information from the bird banding laboratory website and have participants find the answers.
  • Participants can click the waterfowl link at www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/index to access information about waterfowl that migrate through Arkansas.
  • Participants can find an explanation of waterfowl management practices and research at www.flyways.us.
  • Information on avian management procedures, data sheets, etc., is available from the Institute for Bird Populations at www.birdpop.org.
  • Use the latest AGFC waterfowl survey summary to develop quiz sheets for participants to answer after reading the information.
  • Suggest the above in the post-visit teacher packet.

Participant Worksheets:

• Waterfowl Identification in the Central Flyway
• What are Duck Stamps?
• Participant Response Sheet


Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) – the state agency responsible for managing fish and wildlife populations


Bird Banding Laboratory – a database of North American bird information maintained by the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center of the US Geological Survey


Flyways – distinct migration routes used by waterfowl to move between breeding and wintering areas; four flyways are located in North America: Atlantic, Central, Mississippi and Pacific


Habitat – living place for wild animals that includes available food, water and space


Management plan – a scientific method of keeping wildlife populations at optimal levels based on available habitat and population monitoring surveys


Migration corridors – travel areas used by wildlife when moving between locations; waterfowl use migration corridors called flyways


Migratory bird – a species of bird that moves between distinct areas (usually for breeding and wintering) during the year


Migratory Bird Treaty Act – 1918 agreement between the US and Canada (later amended to add Mexico, Japan and Russia) that established national management to protect migratory birds in the respective nations


Mist net – a light-weight, fine mesh net used by scientists to capture small birds for data collection or research


Neotropical migrant – any of 361 bird species that migrate between wintering grounds in tropical regions of Mexico, Central America and South America to breeding grounds in North America


Ornithologist – a scientist who studies and works with birds


Wildlife biologist – a scientist who studies and manages wild animals