Many people are currently enthralled by the recently-released Pokemon app that allows users to chase after virtual Pokemon around neighborhoods, forests, and lakes. I’m currently doing something similar, but with real live birds. The project I’m assisting with involves setting up mist nets to catch songbirds around clearcuts (areas that have been harvested for timber). The purpose of the study is to determine how the birds are responding to management practices and whether they can thrive despite the apparent loss of habitat. As an added bonus, I get to see some cool birds up close! I don’t get to train them to fight in arenas, though that’s a great idea for a future study on natural selection.
Indigo Bunting vs. Kentucky Warbler, who would win?
So how do you catch songbirds? We use mist-nets that catch birds as they move through the clearcuts. The birds become tangled but can be safely removed without harm. Measurements are taken of important features (such as mass, wing length, tail length, and bill length) and the sex of the bird is recorded. Birds are fitted with a band that can identify individuals in the future. Acquiring this information is needed to better understand bird behavior and habitat use. Also, it gives me a chance to have face-to-face conversations with birds. Most of them aren’t very good at sitting still while I’m talking, but some of them want to talk very loudly and interrupt me. How rude.
Two of the more chatty birds that I interact with. Left- Yellow-breasted Chat, Right – White-eyed Vireo. Vireos are like little devils, but I love them anyway.
Below are some of the birds in my “collection”. Yes, they hatch from real eggs.
Hopefully this brief tour through the world of birds will give you a better appreciation for them and inspire you to go out in nature and finds some cool birds on your own! You can even compete with your friends to see what species you find in different habitats. Plus, there are ways you can contribute to science by engaging in citizen science projects with your local Audubon society. You can also look up Christmas and backyard bird counts, which allows you to help scientists map out bird populations and trends. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to train a Red-eyed Vireo to fight a charmander.