Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Old shrikes

Thanks to for this news of an 8 and a half year old Northern Shrike!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Snagged straight off of facebook, for obvious reasons:

The Center for Conservation Biology

CCB has tracked 3 whimbrels off the east coast of Canada to the northern shore of South America via a previously unknown migration pathway over the open Atlantic Ocean. The route passed through the center of the vast Atlantic at one point passing 1,000 miles closer to Africa than to North America and within 700 miles of the Cape Verde Islands. The bird with the longest flight flew nonstop for 145 hours (6 days) covering a distance of 7,000 kilometers (4,355 miles).

The three birds named Mackenzie, Taglu, and Akpik were originally marked by CCB and Canadian Wildlife Service staff on the breeding grounds along the Mackenzie River Delta in far western Canada (Mackenzie was fitted with a transmitter recovered from Machi, a bird that was shot on Guadeloupe in September of 2011). In mid-July the birds flew across the continent to the east coast of Canada and staged for approximately 2 weeks in the James Bay and the Gulf of St. Lawrence to build fat reserves. The birds then flew southeast, reaching the center of the Atlantic Ocean before turning south and making landfall in South America between Guyana and Brazil. Although this portion of the Atlantic is used by true seabirds that roost on the water, it is so isolated from shore that species such as whimbrel that cannot land on water were not believed to reach it. The birds may receive some benefit from venturing this far out to sea in the form of favorable tailwinds. Mackenzie averaged just under 30 miles per hour (48 kilometers per hour) for the 6-day flight.

The three birds are part of a larger project that has included 20 additional birds that have been tracked to better understand migratory pathways and locations that are critical for this declining species. The study has tracked whimbrels for more than 185,000 miles (300,000 kilometers) since 2008. The broader tracking project is a collaborative effort between The Center for Conservation Biology, The Canadian Wildlife Service, The Nature Conservancy, The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program, and Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Gulf Coast Bird Observatory

The Gulf Coast Bird Observatory is a powerhouse of conservation, based in Lake Jackson, Texas - but with partners all over the place! This blog could almost sustain itself on their projects alone, but they do a great job keeping their site current on activities and their newsletters are just some of the highlights! Here are two snippets from their August newsletter...

The August newsletter from GCBO is just about as good as it gets - a note about the upcoming Xtreme Hummingbird Xtravaganza:
Autumn is hummingbird season in Texas, as thousands of these tiny creatures move through the state on their southward migration to Mexico and Central America. Many Ruby-throats will travel 600 miles straight across the Gulf to the Yucatan Peninsula while others will fly around the edges of the Gulf to points in Mexico. Be sure to mark your calendars for September 8th and 15th when we will host our annual Xtreme Hummingbird Xtravaganza. You can watch hummingbird banding, adopt a hummingbird, browse the Nature Store, walk the nature trails, or buy a plant to attract hummingbirds and butterflies.
Then, after an update on a land purchase grant in Costa Rica, an update on the American Oystercatcher project that we blogged earlier:
Our second field season studying American Oystercatchers was a lesson in contradictions. We again found our first nest in February and the last one in June, but that's where the similarities ended. There were fewer pairs overall so we expanded our monitoring area. We found 48 breeding pairs which produced 81 nests in Galveston and East Matagorda Bays. Bad weather hampered our monitoring attempts as well as oystercatcher productivity. Whereas last year we had no pairs attempt to nest more than twice, this year we had many pairs that attempted to nest three times only to be met with high tides that washed eggs and/or chicks away or caused starvation when the adults were unable to feed the chicks. On the Upper Texas Coast, we color-banded 54 adults and only 14 chicks. Overall productivity was approximately .21 which when compared with last year's .78 is quite a contrast. This field season marks the end of Texas State graduate student Alexandra Munters (pictured above) research on this project. She expects to graduate with a masters degree next spring and we are anxiously awaiting the results of her analysis.

This year Lianne Koczur, a graduate student from TAMUK, monitored oystercatchers on the central coast. She monitored 67 nests from 49 breeding pairs located from Matagorda Bay south to Corpus Christi Bay. Productivity on the central coast was slightly higher at .31. We have now banded 125 adult oystercatchers and 59 chicks and are looking forward to resighting data from you. If you are out birding and you see a banded oystercatcher, please check the legs for bands and let us know if you see any banded ones. We would like to thank the many volunteers that helped with this research project!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

American Oystercatcher adventures

What is black and white and red all over?
Ok, really it's black and brown and red and white with slightly pinkish/pale legs.
The American Oystercatcher - it is a bold, stocky shorebird with a red beak (or red bill, if you prefer), black head and neck, dark brown back and bright white belly. You are most likely to see them along a salty coastline or marsh and... yes, they will be eating bivalves.

Map via

After a flurry of recent posts about shorebirds, I was contacted by one of the project database gurus with some additional information - hopefully this increased awareness and ease of reporting will get more reports rolling in! Without further delay....


American Oystercatcher photo courtesy of Lindsay Addison

I came across your blog while surfing, and I thought I'd write to let you know where people can submit color-banded American Oystercatcher sightings. You may already know, but there is a working group for the species which works to coordinate and facilitate rangewide research. One part of that research has been the color-banding of birds from almost all states in which they occur. Members of the public who sight a banded American Oystercatcher can report their bands at (under "Bands & Resighting -> "Report Form").

The reports will go into the working group's database of American Oystercatcher band records (captures and resightings). I curate band sightings submitted by the public, checking them for accuracy as much as possible before adding them to the working group's database, which
includes all band records from all states. If people include an email address, we write back to tell them where their bird was banded or sighted. It's easy to submit a band, and users can upload a picture as well. There will be some changes to the form, as the database is being finalized, but the website address will remain the same.


Lindsay Addison
Coastal Biologist
Audubon North Carolina
7741 Market Street, Unit D
Wilmington, NC, 28411-9444
laddison at audubon dot org

Monday, August 20, 2012

Los Farallones: best blog ever

Not sure how this blog has never been featured before: Los Farallones is just about the best blog on the planet for bird research... and that includes banding.

Most recently, they posted Wild Nights at Club Farallon - which highlights the mist-netting of Ashy Storm Petrels for data collection.

They host a great variety of bird posts, marine mammal posts... everything in/on/around the island is fair game, so be sure to check out their older posts!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Texas - oystercatcher update

It's no secret - I'm a HUGE fan of the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory - they have fantastic outreach programs to familiarize the public with research (not sure if the Xtreme Hummingbird Xtravaganza has been covered on this blog before, but it needs to happen!)

There's a great effort put forth by GCBO to track American Oystercatchers along the Upper and Central Texas coast, the e-mail below is from one of the staff biologists who has made the project very approachable by folks who see any of 'their' birds. It's so refreshing to not only have the transparency of "this project exists" but also "here's where to look up more information" - it's wonderful for the curious!

Without further delay...


13 August 2012

As many of you know, GCBO has an ongoing project studying American Oystercatchers on the Upper and Central coasts. The breeding season is over for this species now and so they will begin to wander between now and December/January when they pair up and start defending their territories again. This year we had a Texas State student working on the upper coast and a Texas A&M student working on the central coast. All told we have now banded 125 adult and 58 chick oystercatchers. Chicks can be told from full adults by having black on their bills. Chicks from last year still have a small amount of black on their bill so if you look closely you should be able to tell them apart from full adults still. I would greatly appreciate everyone checking the legs of oystercatchers that they see for bands. They are banded on each leg above the ankle (what appears to be knee) with identical maroon color bands that have two codes on them. The codes are either two numbers, two letters, or a letter and a number combination. Again, the codes on each leg are identical. These bands can be hard to see unless you look closely. I'd appreciate any sightings of banded oystercatchers be sent to me. Photos are greatly appreciated. This helps is track movements of this species during the non-breeding season and also chick movements which are very important for conservation. You can see what the bands look like and read about this project on our website here:

There is also a link to a spreadsheet which has information about where each bird was banded.
Thanks everyone.
Susan A. Heath, PhD
Gulf Coast Bird Observatory
103 Hwy 332 West
Lake Jackson, TX 77566

Friday, August 3, 2012

"Ruffled Feathers"

Birds captured in mist nets for banding are often in less than dignified poses, and it's quite curious to see an entire slideshow of birds in mist nets - especially on a stark white background. Not really science here, but... art as a spinoff of research?
Click here for the article and slideshow about the work of Todd Forsgren

Monday, July 30, 2012

Banded Mourning Dove

Via Les Stewart on the Texbirds facebook group:

"Had this banded Mourning Dove show up in my yard in Nacogdoches twice this week (or it could be two different banded doves). Anyway just wondering who is tagging Mourning Doves and if I should report it anywhere. I assume that would be useless, unless I shoot it and get the tag number and I wasn't planning on that..."