Science for a Blue Planet

Science for a Blue Planet

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Test Your Bird Knowledge

By | September 25, 2015

WCSP

Bird-banding is a method Point Blue uses to gain information about the lives of birds — the ways birds signal environmental change, the well-being of populations, evidence of restoration success, and more. Starting in 1965 with our first bird monitoring study on outer Point Reyes, we band birds to gather data that guides effective conservation. Point Blue’s long-term data sets are critical to the success of our work, providing key insights into change over time.

At the Palomarin Field Station, intern biologist Hannah Conley reads the band number of a recaptured Golden-crowned Kinglet. Photo by Annie Schmidt.

At the Palomarin Field Station, intern biologist Hannah Conley reads the band number of a recaptured Golden-crowned Kinglet. Photo by Annie Schmidt.

The Palomarin Field Station is one place where visitors can observe this process up close. At other sites, Point Blue bands migratory and resident songbirds, seabirds in their nesting colonies on the Farallon Islands, shorebirds that are wintering or migrating along the Pacific Flyway, Snowy Plovers that breed on California beaches, California Gull chicks at Mono Lake, and more.

Can you answer the following questions – or make your best guess? This quiz will get you thinking about some amazing aspects of Point Blue’s bird-banding research.  Keep reading to find the answers.

  1. What bird species do you suppose we banded the largest number of last year? (Hint: this is not necessarily a songbird!).
  2. In our California banding records, what do the following species have in common: House Finch, Northern Spotted Owl, Yellow-green Vireo, Ovenbird, Blue Grosbeak, and Belted Kingfisher?
  3. What was the most commonly caught vagrant species (the off-course migratory songbird) in our mist nets in 2014?
Diana Humple holds a Yellow-billed Cuckoo that is a rare record in Point Blue’s mist-net monitoring on the Bolinas Lagoon Open Space Preserve.

Diana Humple holds a Yellow-billed Cuckoo that is a rare record in Point Blue’s mist-net monitoring on the Bolinas Lagoon Open Space Preserve.

Diana Humple is the Point Blue staff person who coordinates all this bird-banding activity. She is a Senior Ecologist, based at our Palomarin Field Station, and also Point Blue’s primary banding permit holder. What does this involve? Diana says, “I’m responsible for requesting permissions for each of the banding activities we do across all our projects; for managing our banding data and submitting records into the federal database of the U.S. Geological Society Bird Banding Lab; and working with our biologists on our training and data quality standards. Occasionally I even get out into the field and band birds in a few of our projects!”

Quiz Answers

Recently, Diana completed an annual summary of Point Blue banding activity for the year 2014, for a publication in the journal North American Bird Bander. In the process, she mined some surprising highlights, sampled below. (Could you have guessed at these numbers?)

A Snowy Plover chick is brooded by its father. Before chicks leave the sand nests where they hatch, biologists can band them in order to trace the year’s fledging success. Point Blue photo

A Snowy Plover chick is brooded by its father. Before chicks leave the sand nests where they hatch, biologists can band them in order to trace the year’s fledging success. Point Blue photo

All together, our 2014 total topped 10K, with 10,038 individual birds banded. These totals come from banding in 15 different research and monitoring programs in California, Arizona, and beyond. They do not include our work in Antarctica, which is beyond the scope of the USGS summary, nor the thousands of already-banded birds (“recaps”) that Point Blue captured in 2014.

Held harmlessly in a fine-mesh mist net, a recaptured (notice the bands!) Wilson’s Warbler will add to our data base. Intern field biologist Robert Snowden is skilled at handling songbirds and recording data at the Palomarin Field Station (visitors are welcome!). Photo by Annie Schmidt.

Held harmlessly in a fine-mesh mist net, a recaptured (notice the bands!) Wilson’s Warbler will add to our data base. Intern field biologist Robert Snowden is skilled at handling songbirds and recording data at the Palomarin Field Station (visitors are welcome!). Photo by Annie Schmidt.

As Diana Humple observes, “The data generated from bird banding represents a unique intersection between what’s happening with populations as a whole and with the individual. Results of long-term monitoring research at Point Blue have shown this relationship to be invaluable to conservation science.”

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