Harry Fuller, Klamath Bird Observatory Board President I learned two things today about White-headed Woodpeckers: (1) The “white” head is not all white up close and (2) the male has a brood patch as well as the female, meaning he helps incubate eggs. How did I find out? I visited a Klamath Bird Observatory bird-banding site near Upper Klamath Lake. The bird banders are gentle, using no pressure and no squeezing. The birds are held on their backs when measured, allowing the hand to support a given bird’s weight. The birds are released by opening the hand near the ground with the bird in an upright position, allowing each bird to seek its own escape route and first perch. This bird population research project is now almost two decades old, and it is one of the longest-running, annual data collections in the western United States. Each bird’s general condition, feathers, weight, gender, and age can help tell a lot about how a breeding population is doing—and this is information that often can only be collected from birds in hand. A population with a high percentage of older birds (not yearlings) is a good sign of a healthy breeding situation. The two White-headed Woodpeckers banded today were both 3 year old birds, a good sign. This species is not often caught, but it is regularly observed at this location near Rocky Point, Oregon.
Harry Fuller, KBO Board Member Up at 4AM. On the road before 5AM. Parked on a dirt road in sagebrush country before 6AM. It’s 34 outside, fingers turn numb because the windows have to be open to shoot pics. Four male Sage Grouse are on the lek. The huffing, puffing, dancing and bellow notes of the annual lek performance are underway by the time we can see them. The males pull their head down into their inflated white feather ruffs and then re-extend their necks. At the same time they are inflating and deflating their twin air sacs, which are blanketed by thick white feathers. At 7:06 AM at an unseen signal all four males fly away. Their performance is done. Our day is well underway. The next hours of birds and photos will be a bonus. Our Klamath Bird Observatory photo trip to Malheur is a success before we’ve even had breakfast. (Harry Fuller shares an experience from a recent KBO conservation bird-watching outing to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon. To learn more about upcoming KBO field trips, visit the KBO Website and look under Trips and Events at the bottom left.)
Pablo “Chespi” Elizondo, Costa Rica Bird Observatories Executive Director Background: Klamath Bird Observatory and USDA Forest Service Redwood Sciences Laboratory have a long-running international capacity building program that is supported by the Forest Service’s International Programs. Costa Rica Bird Observatories is one of the most notable success stories. Emerging from monitoring effort that began over 20 years ago in Torutgeuro, Costa Rica Bird Observatories is now a fully-fledged and sustainable program. Costa Rica Bird Observatories includes 13 field locations where long-term monitoring efforts are ongoing, a support network for coordinated banding efforts throughout Costa Rica (Red de Anilladores de Aves de Costa Rica), and an international capacity building program of its own, that is working towards developing monitoring efforts throughout central and south America as part of the Western Hemisphere Banding Network (Red de Anilladores de Aves del Hemisferio Occidental). The White-eyed Vireo (Vireo griseus) is a migratory bird that breeds in the southeastern United States from New Jersey west to northern Missouri and south to Texas and Florida. This species winters in eastern Mexico, northern Central America, Cuba, and the Bahamas. White-eyed Vireos rarely occur in Costa Rica. Garrigues and Dean (2007) indicated that there were very few records for Costa Rica, “… one record for the Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí area (Jan 2004); and one report of a bird seen and heard in Monteverde (March 1997).” eBird only shows two other records (one from 2012, and one from 2010) (eBird 2013). This year at Costa Rica Bird Observatories we captured three individual White-eyed Vireos in Tortuguero, one at our Airport station (Nov-19-2012) and two at the Caribbean Conservation Corp station (Nov-11 and Dec-14 2012). Two of the individuals were unknown age, but suspected to be young birds, and one was confirmed to be a hatch year bird by observed molt limits between newly grown formative (i.e., 1st adult) and retained juvenal (i.e., fledgling) feathers. There have been additional White-eyed Vireo observations in Tortuguero this winter; Daryl Logh, a well know birdwatcher from Casa Marbella, has seen this rare vireo a couple of times this year. Ornithologists suggest that individual birds that stray beyond their wintering range (i.e., vagrants) such as White-eyed Vireos in Costa Rica, are predominantly young birds. Our capture data collected over the past 20 years in Tortuguero provide plenty of additional evidence that rarities and vagrant birds are usually younger individuals. For example, 6 out of 6 Black-throated Blue Warbler and 8 out of 8 Yellow-breasted Chats, both rarities to the Caribbean slope of Costa Rica and captured at our Totuguero stations, have been young birds. Literature cited eBird. 2013. eBird: An online database of bird distribution and abundance [web application]. eBird, Ithaca, New York. Available: http://www.ebird.org. (Accessed: April 4, 2013). Garrigues, R. and R. Dean (2007). The Birds of Costa Rica. Ithaca, NY, Cornell University Press. Hopp, Steven L., Alice Kirby, and Carol A. Boone. 2010. White-eyed Vireo (Vireo griseus), Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online: http://neotropical.birds.cornell.edu/portal/species/overview?p_p_spp=506316