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..."

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

N 1 - Texas City Oystercatcher

The more we know... well, the more we know!

"American Oystercatcher 'N 1,' Haematopus palliatus, at the Texas City dike, 26 July 2012. This bird was tagged at the Nature Conservancy's Texas City Prairie Preserve, up the coast a bit. Its mate has a broken wing and is in rehab, so 'N 1' may have left to search for a new mate."

Click here for the photo.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

banded Prarie Warblers at Montague Sandplains IBA

Via Birding is Fun: banded Prairie Warblers at Montague Sandplains IBA.

No word on their background, or the project - but with multiple banded birds around, it's likely a target species for a study.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Banded White-winged Dove in TX

White-winged Dove in a residential area in Victoria, TX (kind of the central coast - ish), likely part of a population study; via Texas Nature Notes!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Texas Black-necked Stilts

Anahuac NWR, on the Upper Texas Coast, is my old stomping ground... and now there are almost 200 banded Black-necked Stilts roaming around! Wish I were down there.
Anahuac has been slow but steady through June. Shorebirds have returned, with up to 17 species seen (18 Jun).
Highlights include:
bronzed cowbird (male) continues by entrance
tropical kingbird, 20 June
red knot on Alice, Jackson, White (closed unit west of Shoveler Pond), 23 June, undergoing extreme wing molt, will post photo to TOS list when have access to my computer.
wood storks (up to 350 on Alice, Jackson, White), viewable at a distance from west side of Shoveler Pond
American avocets (up to 500)
stilt sandpiper, 20 June (early or late?)
In addition, ~175 black-necked stilts have been color-banded on Anahuac over the last two years, and capture efforts continue, 250-300 will have been banded by the end of July, please check stilt legs for bands as we have experienced minimal resightings (Thanks Joe Kennedy!). Much of this is due to a large stilt population (>25,000) along the upper coast and inaccessible habitat, but I feel that some of this is just due to people being unaware of our banding operation, please tell others! Many of our radio-marked birds have disappeared to parts unknown/off-refuge. Would greatly appreciate assistance relocating these individuals.
Thomas Riecke
Chambers County, Texas

Thursday, June 14, 2012

13 year old Piping Plover

Via Vince Cavalieri, one of the brains behind this project!

The Great Lakes piping plover population has its own survivor story like B95 (aka moonbird) the red knot.

This is YOGs, currently our oldest known Great Lakes piping plover. In her 13 years, YOGs has flown something like 39,000 miles in migrations, well more than enough to fly completely around the world! Amongst countless predators, storms, human disturbance and many other hazards, this piping plover has survived and been a big part of the the increase in Great Lakes piping plover numbers.

B95 - Red Knot that keeps going

'Moonbird' is a Red Knot that has gotten some great coverage lately, not to mention a whole book!
Latest news is here: B95, the great survivor

Knots face some pretty amazing travel challenges as well as food shortages due to overharvesting of horseshoe crabs - the article above really does a nice job of covering some of those obstacles and outlining why the name 'moonbird' is appropriate. Namely, the distance this bird has traveled between Delaware and Argentina since being banded (as an adult!) in 1995 astronomical.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Sometimes they get away...

Over the weekend, a banded Western Scrub Jay was seen - without camera or binoculars - with a silver leg band (observer does not recall which leg) at the L.E. Woods picnic area in the Davis Mts. Sightings like this are a bit frustrating because it takes a lot of asking - and asking who to ask - to find out about the bird. And you'll never know the individual's story, beyond a banding. So, to keep asking...


Sunday, April 15, 2012

Become an Osprey Watcher

Become an Osprey Watcher: Connect with a global community of observers

The Center for Conservation Biology has launched Osprey-Watch, a project created to engage a global community to collect data on breeding osprey. Linked by an interest in osprey and a concern for the health of the aquatic environments on which they rely, this community will for the first time provide a global perspective on this charismatic species. The mission of Osprey-Watch is to bring citizen scientists together in order to collect information on a large enough spatial scale to be useful in addressing three of the most pressing issues facing aquatic ecosystems including global climate change, depletion of fish stocks, and environmental contaminants.

Osprey are one of very few truly global sentinels for aquatic health. They feed almost exclusively on live fish throughout their entire life cycle. They are a top consumer within aquatic ecosystems and are very sensitive to both overfishing and environmental contaminants. Nearly all populations breed in the northern latitudes and winter in the southern latitudes, effectively linking the aquatic health of the hemispheres. Their breeding season in the north is highly seasonal making them an effective barometer of climate change.

Osprey-Watch is a user-friendly, internet platform that allows observers across the globe to map their nests, log observations, upload photos, and interact within an observer forum. Information entered into the platform will be immediately accessible to users and will be summarized following the breeding season.

To join a growing community of global citizens, please visit and become an Osprey-Watcher.

Michael Wilson
Center for Conservation Biology
College of William and Mary & Virginia Commonwealth University
P.O. Box 8795
Williamsburg, VA 23187-8795
phone: 757-221-1649
fax: 757-221-1650
email: mdwils AT

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Scissor-tailed Flycatchers around Oklahoma

For folks who are wondering about where young Scissor-tailed Flycatchers go, here's a study trying to determine just that! So keep an eye out for banded STFL!


From: dvl04 AT
Sent: Saturday, March 31, 2012 10:42 PM
Subject: [OKBIRDS] Scissor-tailed Flycatchers to watch for

Hi, OKbirders!

My name is Diane Landoll and I am a PhD student at the University of Oklahoma. I have been studying Scissor-tailed Flycatchers for four years now, and this has included banding birds with aluminum USGS bands. Many birds were also banded with a combination of three other colored bands, one on the leg with the aluminum band and two on the other leg. I would like to ask for everyone's help in trying to freight these birds. I am hoping to see where young birds are going because they do not return to the area of their birth. I am also trying to figure out a rough idea of when they arrive back in the area and the route they take to get there. Since there have already been a few sightings (I saw two beautiful male today on Lawton!), now is the time to see if any banded birds from previous years are making it back to us!

What I am asking is that if you see any Scissor-tailed Flycatchers and are interested in figuring out if they are banded, try to get a look at their legs to see if they have an aluminum band only or an aluminum band and color bands. The colors can be difficult to make out sometimes, specially since the birds tend to sit on their legs a bit, so it might be a fun challenge. It always is for me, but that is really part of what makes it so fun. If you do see any banded birds, please let me know as soon as possible. If you can figure out what the color combination is, that would be amazing, but simply knowing where our banded birds are is a great help. If you do try to figure out color combinations, knowing the position of each color and which leg they are on is very important in figuring out exactly which bird it is. For example, a bird might have an aluminum band on top of a red band (so that the red band is the one nearer the foot) on its right leg and a purple band over a blue band on its left leg. If you are able to get a picture of the birds and its bands, that is even better.

Of you do see any banded birds, please let me know at this email address (dvl04 AT Thank you all in advance for any help. Any sightings are very valuable and will help us get a better understanding of our magnificent state bird.

Thanks again, and good birding!

Diane Landoll
PhD Student
University of Oklahoma

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Black Swift - 165 years of winter mystery

165-Year-Old Mystery of Disappearing Black Swift Solved

Via the American Bird Conservancy


Where the high flying bird vanishes to after breeding and spending summers in many parts of western North America has puzzled ornithologists since the species was discovered in 1857. Now, thanks to a new study, we learn that at least some of them travel about 4,300 miles to a remote part of western Brazil in lowland rainforest.

The study, which was published in the March 2012 issue of Wilson Journal of Ornithology, involved attaching geolocators (tiny devices that record and store tracking information) to four adult Black Swifts from two nesting sites in Colorado, then recapturing the same birds at the same sites the next year to download the stored data. Three of the four tracking devices were recovered, and showed the birds departing for their fall southerly migration between September 10 and September 19, arriving in Brazil between September 28 and October 12, departing Brazil between May 9 and 20, and arriving back at their Colorado breeding sites between May 23 and June 18.

Further, satellite GPS devices, which transmit real time tracking of individuals, are not sufficiently small to place on a species the size of the seven-inch-long Black Swift. As a result, geolocators (which record data but do not transmit it) were used which meant that the study birds would need to be recaptured for the location data to be analyzed. That necessity was made easier on one hand by the fact that the birds typically are very committed to returning to their previous breeding colony, but made more challenging because they tend to nest in areas that are incredibly difficult to access – behind waterfalls in deeply shaded niches in steep and narrow canyons.

Curiously, the birds averaged about 211 miles per day during fall migration and about 244 miles per day during spring migration, about a 15 percent increase in average daily distance covered. They spent about 220 days in Brazil before migrating north again.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Look for banded Golden-cheeked Warblers!

From a Texbirds post, re: a banded Golden-cheeked Warbler photographed by Sean Paul Kelly (click here for the photos) "This bird is part of the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve Golden-cheeked Warbler study that is now going on. This bird was banded last year on April 20th at Emma Long Park."

Subject: banded Golden-cheeked Warblers

From: Bill Reiner (spizella/AT/SBCGLOBAL/./NET)
Date: Mon, 12 Mar 2012 20:45:18 -0700


I had a feeling I needed to send out this message pronto, and it seems I am one day late. But thanks to Mr. Kelley, for asking the question, and for posting those photos of the banded Golden-cheeked Warbler in Emma Long Park this morning! (And also thanks to the quick-responding TexBirders who alerted me to his post.)

The bird Mr. Kelley photographed is one of more than 350 Golden-cheeked Warblers that have been banded by biologists on study plots scattered across the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve, on the west side of Austin, over the past three years. The vast majority of the banded birds have been males, but a few females have also been banded. Biologists at Fort Hood have banded even more individuals of this species, over an even longer time. The goals of the studies in these two locations have included learning more about the survival rates, age ratios, and dispersal of these endangered birds.

Some of the plots where Golden-cheeks have been banded around Austin are in areas open to the public, such as Emma Long Park (Turkey Creek Trail), Barton Creek Greenbelt (Sculpture Falls area), Saint Edwards Park, and, for the first time last year, Wild Basin. However, the birds returning from their winter ranges could turn up anywhere (even South Padre Island!), so please look closely at the legs of any Golden-cheeked Warbler you spot. A banded warbler will have one numbered aluminum band (don’t even try to read it with binoculars) and two or three colored resin or plastic bands to allow for recognition of individuals in the field. If you do see a banded Golden-cheeked Warbler, I will be very happy to hear about it, and can direct the information to the biologists -- either at Fort Hood or here in Austin -- who banded it. The best place to contact me is: william.reiner AT

Information to provide:
1) What color bands in what order. Banders read bands as: upper left leg/lower left leg : upper right leg/lower right leg. So, for example, Mr. Kelley's bird is red/orange : white/silver. Colors are not always what they appear at first glance, so a photograph is always welcome, if it's possible. Colors can often be misread. Legs can be mixed up -- it's the bird's left and right legs, not which is right or left as you are looking at it. Even upper and lower can be confused depending upon your vantage point. Because of the potential for confusion, it is also very important to give us...

2) The location of the bird. A GPS position would be very helpful to pinpoint its location, but if this is not possible, landmarks along a trail or road or other feature can greatly help us to relocate the individual and verify its identity.

If you want to help even more with this project, please come volunteer with us!

The BCP biologists cannot possibly watch all the suitable habitat on the Preserve, so we are seeking experienced birders willing to devote at least 3 field days this spring to searching for banded warblers. Volunteers will have the opportunity to explore a part of the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve that is not normally open to the public. Several birders are already trained and ready to go this spring, but, because we banded birds on new plots last year, we still need people to look for returning birds on the outskirts of those plots. If you have the time and the interest, please contact me at the e-mail address above.

Thank you,
Bill Reiner, field biologist
Balcones Canyonlands Preserve
City of Austin
(512) 972-1676

Friday, February 24, 2012

Mexican Jay, Big Bend National Park

(Photo via Mark Flippo of Birding Big Bend)

"A Mexican Jay near the Pinnacles campsites in the Chisos: note the silver band on the bird's left leg. In 1996-97 a graduate student came to BBNP to conduct research on Mexican jays and banded a number of birds, including some hatch year birds. Either he never completed his work or he didn't publish so there is no record of study results but an indirect benefit was the bands provided a datapoint... those few jays still flying aorund in the Chisos with bands on their legs are at least 15 years old. This jay is definitely a viejo..."

Photo and caption originally posted at Birding Big Bend's facebook page, thanks to Kym Flippo!

(Crossposted at Big Bend Birds & Nature)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

If you see a banded Piping Plover...

Via Texbirds, pre-dated and modified for format and lack of photos:

Here is a repost from last year, if you see Piping Plovers with colored bands:

Here is some info on what to do if you see a banded or unbanded Piping Plover. It was sent to me in 2008 from Cheri Gratto-Trevor, a Canadian researcher. Research and researchers come and go, so I'm not sure if all of the info is still current, but it's worth trying an email or 2:

"If you see a marked Piping Plover, please write down the location, date, behaviour of bird (foraging; with mate or nest), a detailed description of the bands (see below).

* To describe a band combination: describe each band:
* Type: metal, colour band, flag (band with a tab sticking out from the leg
* Colours: as exact as possible - common colours are red, yellow, orange, light blue (very pale), dark blue, white, light green (very pale), dark green, black, grey. Some are bi-coloured (2 colours on one band). Sometimes two bands of the same colour are placed over each other on a leg (may look like a very tall band). Common flag colours are black, white, dark green, yellow, orange and light blue.

* Location on bird's leg:
bird's upper left (above the "knee"), lower left (below the "knee"), upper right, lower right; above or below other bands on the same part of the leg.
* * * Note if you are unsure of any of the bands or if you did not see all parts of the leg clearly.

* * * Example:
"Black flag upper left, dark blue band lower left, metal upper right, light green over dark blue band lower right."

* Plovers banded as adults in Saskatchewan have 5 bands: a white flag upper right OR black flag upper left or right; metal upper on opposite leg to flag (rarely on lower leg with colour bands), 2 colour bands on 1 lower leg, and one plain colour on the other lower leg. Colours used were red, orange, yellow, light green, dark green, grey, black, dark blue; there may be two of the same colour on the same part of the leg).

Plovers banded as chicks are variable - some are similar to the adult schemes noted above, while others just have either a white or black flag upper and metal upper, no other colour bands. In other projects; some chicks (Lake Diefenbaker, SK) have a white band upper left (not a flag), metal on a lower leg, and 1-3 other bands; some (Chaplin Lake, SK) have a light green/dark green bi-coloured band on one leg, metal other upper leg, and 1-2 bands on the lower legs; some (Alberta) have a bicoloured black and white band, metal and 1-2 colour bands. Some plovers from the U.S. Great Lakes have been banded with an orange flag on an upper leg (metal other upper, 2 colour bands on one lower leg and one on the other), and in the Missouri River, USA with a dark green flag upper (2 colour bands on each lower leg, no metal; or just the flag and 2 colour bands in total), or yellow flag on an upper leg (metal other upper, 2 colour bands on one lower leg and one on the other) . And of course, bands can discolour, or occasionally, fall off.

However this information can provide very useful data on Piping Plover movements and survival, so please look for marked birds and send in your sightings!

Band sightings can be sent to Greg Pavelka (Gregory.A.Pavelka AT, especially if no flag or a light blue flag is seen; or directly to the bander if a flag is observed:
white or black flag: Cheri Gratto-Trevor (cheri.gratto-trevor AT
dark green flag: Dan Catlin (dcatlin AT
yellow or red flag: Jennifer Stucker (jstucker AT
orange flag: Great Lakes (plover AT

Thanks for looking for our birds!