Western Bird Banding Association

Golden-crowned Sparrow top of headThe Western Bird Banding Association (WBBA) was founded in 1925 to provide guidance and assistance to a relatively small number of western bird banders, located then primarily in Southern California. WBBA’s archives, including a photo album, were destroyed by fire in 1991; beyond what was published in WBBA's periodicals, little information survives on the organization’s history. Barbara McKnight wrote the following piece for a 1982 issue of North American Bird Bander.

Notes on the History of WBBA
North American Bird Bander, 1982 Vol. 7(1):41-42.

"Volume 1, No. 1, of News From The Bird Banders is dated January, 1926. This newsletter served to disperse information among the members of the Western Bird Banding Association, carrying items similar to today's publication. The first President of the WBBA was J. Eugene Law; Wright M. Pierce was Vice-president, Myrtle S. Edwards, Secretary, and Harold Michener, Business Manager. At the close of the first year of the newsletter publication, it was noted that there were 92 members, representing the following locations: Alberta, Arizona, British Columbia, California (with 74 of the total members), Colorado, Idaho, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. Dues were $1.00 a year, or $3.50 if one wished also to be included as a member of the Cooper Ornithological Society.

For a number of years, Harlan H. Edwards was in charge of keeping track of band numbers issued to permittee members. Each early issue of the News carried a paragraph containing the admonition to "Send Edwards a Postcard." Members were asked to send to him the numbers of the bands as received from the Biological Survey; by keeping track of these locally, banders could more quickly receive information on recoveries. And an emergency supply of bands was kept on hand with Mr. Edwards.

An ad in an early issue stated: "A supply of traps available to banders are manufactured in lots of 25 (Potter Traps) and 10 (Western Traps) and are sold to banders at cost plus transportation.

   Potter Traps     $2.50 plus carriage 2 compartment collapsible
   Western Traps  $5.00 plus carriage 6 compartment non-collapsible"

And in the October 1927 issue, Michener detailed a drop door and frame for any purpose - add to any style trap. He offered to supply them at the estimated cost of forty cents each. Florence Merriam Bailey's "Handbook of the Birds of the Western United States" could be purchased for $6.00 in 1927.

Some of the bird names appearing in these early issues sound strange:

Shufoldt's Junco
Slender-billed Nuthatch
California Creeper
Louisiana Tanager
Blue-fronted Jay
Willow Woodpecker

Annual Census of birds banded in the Western Province in 1926 was compiled from the annual reports of 47 banders, and showed 145 species and subspecies, and 11,445 individuals banded that year. In 1927, totals rose to 160 species and subspecies, with 18,890 individuals banded; 1928 totals were 164 species and subspecies, with 23,091 individuals. It is well to remember that all these birds were captured in traps."

In the late 1930s WBBA sponsored the Pacific Gull Color-banding Project in which a dozen or more members banded more than 14,000 individuals of three western gull species over a period of several years. The final report of this project was published in the March-April 1951 issue of the Condor.

The Point Reyes Bird Observatory (renamed Point Blue in 2013) was inspired, founded in 1965, and initially funded by WBBA. Dr. Richard Mewaldt became the first director of PRBO; Paul DeBenedictus was the first resident biologist, succeeded after three months by Rich Stallcup. Howard Cogswell designed and administered the first major research project: Operation Transient, where 26 WBBA members trapped and banded birds at PRBO during the 1965 fall migration. PRBO's first newsletter, appended to Western Bird Bander, vol. 40:3 1965, shows a Board of Directors consisting almost entirely of WBBA members, including Howard Cogswell and C. J. Ralph. WBBA's 1967 Annual Meeting was held at PRBO.

The organization was incorporated in 1968.

The following announcement appeared on p. 12 of NABB v.9, 1984: "Body Weights of 686 Species of North American Birds, by John B. Dunning, Jr. NABB has published the above monograph, which should be of great interest to all bird banders and avian biologists. It constitutes "Monograph No. 1" (May 1984) of WBBA. Orders with payment ($3.75, postpaid) should be sent to: ..." This volume was superseded in 1993 by the CRC Handbook of Avian Body Masses, edited by Dr. Dunning, covering 6300 species, and published by CRC Press. The 2nd edition of this title, now covering 8700 species, was published in December 2007.

WBBA has had several periodicals over the years, starting with the above-mentioned News from the Bird Banders in 1926. This became Western Bird Bander in 1961. In 1976, WBBA and its eastern counterpart, EBBA, agreed to merge their publications into a new publication, North American Bird Bander (NABB). In 1982, the Inland Bird Banding Association (IBBA) joined the flock, making NABB truly continent-wide in scope.

In 2000 WBBA's first entry to the World Wide Web was developed, hosted, and maintained by then President, Jim Steele. The website was redesigned by Lisa Thompson of DuckDog Designs in 2003 (with guidance from Ken Burton and Kay Loughman). The current version was designed by Acorn Amon Designs in 2015 (with guidance from Kay Loughman and the Board).

Since 1999, WBBA has been active in facilitating the development of bander evaluation procedures through the North American Banding Council (NABC), an organization promoting sound and ethical banding principles and techniques. Many WBBA annual meetings are now preceded by NABC evaluation sessions.

List of Presidents and Editors (PDF) || Board Meeting Minutes