Big Bald Banding Station (BBBS) is one of very few monitoring stations in the U.S. that band songbirds, raptors and owls. An average of ~2000 songbirds are captured, banded and safely released each autumn migration at Big Bald (click Songbirds).
The Big Bald Hawkwatch counts an average of ~3000 migrating raptors each autumn of 15 different species, counting over 43,000 birds of prey from 2004 to 2018. The raptor trapping substation lures and bands approximately 100 birds of prey of 10 different species (click Raptors).
Bird banding activities at Big Bald were initiated in 1978 by Dr. George Mayfield and Cleo Mayfield of Columbia, Tennessee. Their passion for birds helped to establish the Big Bald Banding Station, a volunteer-staffed project which gathers data valuable for identifying trends in bird population health and serves as an environmental education resource for area students of all ages.
BBBS is located high on Little Bald Mountain at 5390 feet above sea level (1643m), inside the Appalachian Trail corridor in Cherokee National Forest, Unicoi County, Tennessee. The banding station is located in edge habitat adjacent to managed grassy bald, including perennial shrubs, native heath thickets, and northern hardwood forest type. On clear days, the wide open vistas present expansive views of 360 degrees, with the Black mountain range and Mt. Mitchell, the highest peak in the eastern United States, 20 miles to the southeast.
Big Bald Mountain has been designated as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) and the National Audubon Society’s Important Bird Area program. Big Bald is part of the Southern Blue Ridge IBA, which includes several high altitude sites such as Roan Mountain, Unaka Mountain and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This north-south corridor provides migratory, breeding, and wintering habitat for numerous bird species.
Volunteers and visitors to Big Bald Banding Station are welcome to participate and contribute in many ways, no matter their experience level. School groups and other group organizations desiring education programs and volunteer experiences during BBBS visits are encouraged to contact SARR via email to arrange a date and program type. Please visit our Education page for more information.