Is Mist Netting Safe?

Mist nets are commonly used by researchers to capture birds in the study of their behaviour, movements and demographics.  A recently published study has, for the first time, evaluated the risks associated with mist netting.

Mortality and injury rates were quantified from over 300,000 birds caught by 22 banding (ringing) organisations across the US and Canada.  Risk factors which could increase rates of injury or mortality including bird size, age, frequency of capture and the role of predators were all assessed.

Sand Martins in Mist Net by Mark Philpott, on Flickr
Sand Martins in Mist Net by Mark Philpott, on Flickr

Results indicate that injury and mortality rates below one percent can be achieved during mist netting and injured birds are likely to survive in comparable numbers to uninjured birds after release.  Rates of incident varied among species, with some at greater risk than others.

Mist netting then has low rates of incident when conducted with  adequate training and bird safety precautions in mind.

Spotswood, Erica N. et al (2011) How safe is mist netting? evaluating the risk of injury and mortality to birds. Methods in Ecology & Evolution. Article first published online: 30 June 2011, DOI: 10.1111/j.2041-210X.2011.00123.x

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