Mist Netting

Hello again readers! It’s been a while, this summer is getting busy with me teaching swim lessons to 21 students and working as an assistant at a vet clinic! But as I currently am afflicted with laryngitis, which makes it rather difficult to teach swim lessons, I have finally found the time to type up one of my hand written blog posts.

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At ARCC there are 5 main teams: bird, mammal/monkey (can be combined or separate), herp (herpetology), creative, and community. I worked almost exclusively with the mammal/monkey team because it was what I was most interested in and I valued depth more than breadth.  However, there was one day that I worked with the creative team making a Heliconia video (I’ll blog about that later) and another day that I, and the rest of the mammal team went mist netting with the bird team.

I didn’t really know anything about mist netting other than the fact that they caught birds with finely stranded nets before I went. I did know, however, that we got a good deal when we went with the bird team because they had macheted and set up nets the night before we went. After they set up the nets they make sure that they roll them up so that birds can’t accidentally get caught in them over night.

Rolled up mist net when not in use

Rolled up mist net when not in use

We woke up bright and early at 5:30am to eat a quick breakfast before going out to the nets. Once we got there we unrolled the nets and set up camp on some tarps to be quiet and wait for 45 minutes. We weren’t actually that quiet (especially with 10 people) which probably harmed our success rate for catching birds. We caught two during the time, but it was still fun.

This is an unrolled mist net > pretty sneaky right?

This is an unrolled mist net > pretty sneaky right?

Waiting in between checking the nets

Waiting in between checking the nets

We caught one! Skillful removal of the bird helps prevent injury

We caught one! Skillful removal of the bird helps prevent injury

There are actually a lot of things that can be measured once you catch a bird. First, there are the quantitative measurements such as tarsals (circumfrence and length), wing length, tail, length, and weight.

Measuring tarsal length

Measuring tarsal length

Wing length

Wing length

Weighing birds is rather amusing looking

Weighing birds is rather amusing looking

Then comes the slightly more qualitative measurements. To me these seemed more interesting.

  • By examining the brood patch which is on the chest of a bird we can tell whether an individual is preparing to breed. This is because when getting ready to clutch a bird loses feathers on their brood patch so that their skin will be in direct contact with their eggs for incubation.
  • Cloacal protuberance: male birds start to poke out a bit when ready to breed.
  • Growth bands: Juvenile birds actually have visible bands on their feathers because of how quickly they are growing. During the day melanin is absorbed and a darker band is seen while at night there is a lighter band. These bands are very regular.
  • Hunger bands: These are similar to growth bands, but caused by nutrient deficiencies that lead to color differentiation. Unlike growth bands these are not regular.
  • Skull ossification: Examining the skull and ossification can also give clues to the birds age and relative health
  • And even more things that I haven’t written down!
Looking for growth or hunger bands

Looking for growth or hunger bands

Skull ossification check

Skull ossification check

And of course all of this information is given numbers and recorded

And of course all of this information is given numbers and recorded

Overall, I had a lot of fun and learned a lot of information in just one morning.

A blind black-faced ant thrush was the first bird we caught

A black-faced ant thrush was the first bird we caught. It was blind in one eye which you can see from the white.

A more flattering picture of the bird!

A more flattering picture of the second bird we caught. Unfortunately I can’t remember its name!

 

 

 

The good eye of the first bird we caught.

The good eye of the first bird we caught.

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About Meg LaFollette

I studied abroad in Fiji for 5 months in 2012 and absolutely fell in love with traveling! I went to New Zealand right after and then Peru this summer. When not traveling (and sometimes during) I love healthy, environmentally conscious living. Animals, biology, horses, and behavior are other passions of mine.
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5 Responses to Mist Netting

  1. Jean says:

    I had no idea that you could learn that much from examining a bird; really interesting stuff!

  2. Jenny K. says:

    How were you able to tell that the one bird was blind in one eye?

  3. Jenny K. says:

    Makes sense now, thanks!

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