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Mist Netting in Red Butte Canyon

In the summer of 2013, Tracy Aviary began participating in mist-netting and banding efforts directed by Dr. Cagan Sekercioglu, PhD student Evan Buechley, and other collaborators of the University of Utah’s Department of Biology.  The Aviculturists and other employees of Tracy Aviary help release birds from nets and gather data; in turn, the University gets reliable help handling fragile passerines.

Sixteen mist nets are set up in Red Butte Canyon Research Natural Area.  Between 5 and 25 birds are captured at each session.  Data on bird species, weight, age, sex, feather condition, and other aspects are collected to analyze against data from other areas and years.  “With this data, we can determine how birds utilize habitat for breeding and migrations, as well as track changes in the demographics of bird populations, including deciphering population trends, longevity, reproductive rates, and site fidelity, among other things” said University of Utah PhD student Evan Buechley.  Birds’ legs are affixed with metal bands to keep track of recaptures within their breeding and, ideally, wintering distributions.  “With already banded birds that you recapture, it’s great to look at their brood patch to see if they’re raising young, learn about their reproduction, and gather information on what they’re doing” said Interactive Keeper Megan Keil.

“It was amazing just getting the chance to do this,” said Education Intern Libby Ales.  “If we promote conservation, it’s good that we also participate in it and set an example of how to help, from efforts like banding down to small efforts like recycling.”  Relief Keeper James Harline says he enjoys being able to talk to Tracy Aviary guests about his field work experience.  “We are the face they see representing the birds…We are trying to work toward the public having a better understanding, so it’s good for us to go out and see and do things like this.  Then we can come to work and tell guests, ‘I remember when I was out doing field work, we saw this bird, so I know you can go to this canyon and see it too.”