Sunday, June 14, 2009

What we do...

I've had some people ask exactly what I am doing with the MAPS Program, so I will take this opportunity to explain it. IBP is studying bird demographics with the MAPS Program to monitor bird survivorship from migration and changes in population size. We use 30mm mist nets to catch birds, which we then extract. We put the birds in cloth bags and clip the bags to a carabiner necklace to keep them safe as we go back to the station.

Micro-aging a Red-breasted Sapsucker

At the station the birds are processed for data collection. They are given an aluminum bad sized for the species of bird. This band can be used to identify individuals over their lifetime, and is some of the most important data we collect. After banding the birds we check the skull by gently parting the head feathers. This helps determine the bird's age. We then check for a cloacal protuberance and brood patch to assess breeding condition. Then come body molt, flight feather molt, and flight feather wear. The bird is then micro-aged using a process of examining the wing for molt limits and replaced feathers. This is different for every species, and is determined using the Pyle guide (more on this later). It's really hard to do, and I'm still getting the hang of it. The final two measurements are wing cord and mass. The bird is then released and we watch its flight to ensure that it is okay after all that handling.

Small Warbler being weighed

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