Sites Added to Grassland Bird Winter Survival Study

By December 10, 2013Science
Baird's Sparrow

Baird’s Sparrow

It has been a busy past few months for Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory’s international team as we prepare for a second field season studying Baird’s and Grasshopper Sparrow winter survival and habitat use in the Chihuahuan Desert grasslands of northern Mexico. We’re just about done purchasing and organizing field equipment, prepping databases, printing datasheets and finishing up last-minute tasks as we ready to enter the field.

This season, RMBO biologists will deploy around 200 0.5-gram radio transmitters between three study sites in Mexico. Our team will continue to monitor birds at Reserva Ecológica El Uno near Janos, Chihuahua. Plus, we’ve added two additional sites to the study area this winter, one in Cuchillas de la Zarca in the state of Durango, and the other in El Tokio in the state of Coahuila. Our partners at the Universidad Juárez del Estado de Durango and Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo Leon will conduct the research at these new sites, respectively.

Crew Making Harnesses

The author snapped this photo of a crew making harnesses for radio transmitters. The sparrows will wear the transmitters like a backpack.

Radio Transmitters

These radio transmitters will allow RMBO biologists and technicians to track the sparrows’ movements throughout the winter. Photo by the author.

We anticipate that this season will be quite different from last season. Summer monsoons doused the region with well-needed rain. Taking advantage of the prolific moisture, grass remained tall, lush and full of seeds late into fall. Birds will likely be more abundant, and with more food available, their movement patterns and survival may differ from last winter.

Stay tuned to the RMBO blog. Over the next four months, we’ll provide updates on our fieldwork and tales of missing birds, interesting wildlife encounters and other exciting tidbits.

~ Erin Strasser, Biologist