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Mist Netting on the Vassar Farm

Dr. Glenn A. Proudfoot

Bird migration is a behavior that has evolved over many thousands of years. Migratory behavior continues to evolve because of the changing environment in which the birds live. Each migratory species generally has a route of travel between its nesting and winter range, but for the majority of species these migration routes are quite broad. Although entire species might not be confined to narrow corridors during migration, individual birds often exhibit amazing loyalty to places occupied during previous breeding and non breeding seasons, as well as stopover points between the two, a phenomenon known as site fidelity. Without stop over sites along the way that provide an adequate food supply, shelter from predators, and water, many birds would not make it between northern breeding sites and southern wintering areas. Loss and degradation of stopover areas can result in an increase number of birds dying while on migration and negatively effect nesting success. For example, birds arriving in poor condition on the breeding grounds, because of inadequate food and rest en route, may not be as likely to reproduce as birds arriving in good condition. Therefore, it is just as important to manage areas (e.g., Mohonk Preserve, Vassar Farm) for migrating birds as it is to conserve areas for resident bird populations. We established banding stations on Vassar Farm & the Mohonk Preserve to determine the significance of these areas to Northern saw-whet owls during migration, to assess patterns of movement across the landscape and collect information on age and sex ratio of migrating owls. In addition to providing basic knowledge of Northern saw-whet owl migration, student staffed, the project has educated novice researchers on banding techniques, tissue collection, study design, and data analysis.