Birding Column: Banding Birds at Devils Postpile

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The eastern crew of PRBO Conservation Science is part of a national banding program called MAPS (Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship).

Founded in 1965 as Point Reyes Bird Observatory, California, PRBO is a conservation science organization that studies birds to protect and enhance biodiversity in marine, terrestrial, and wetland systems in western North America. The MAPS network includes over 500 stations located in nine regions throughout North America. It is a major research program of the Institute for Bird Populations (IBP), a California nonprofit corporation dedicated to fostering a global approach to research and the dissemination of information on changes in the abundance, distribution, and ecology of bird populations.

According to River Gates of PRBO Conservation Science's Eastern Sierra Project, "We use birds as indicators of ecosystem health. In our monitoring projects, for example Devils Postpile, we set up long-term monitoring sites and study the population dynamics as the area is restored, using birds as indicators of the recovering mountain meadow habitat.

"By capturing and banding birds, we are able to study the productivity (how many birds are produced in the area) by comparing the adult captures to the capture of young. A ratio is calculated and if the population is stable or increasing, the ratio would be positive or greater than one.

"Another benefit of banding is another measure called survivorship, which is a measure of overwinter survival. Because most birds migrate either to southern latitudes or down in elevation, their return to Devil's Postpile each summer to breed is a good indicator of the habitat quality.

"We submit our data to MAPS, and they conduct a large-scale analysis of the banding data. This effort is also long-term and is responsible for documenting the decline of songbirds in North America. This is an example of how our site-specific information can be added to international efforts to monitor and conserve bird populations."

Previous columns by The Birdman of Bel Air:
New Bird-Watching Column: "The Birdman of Bel Air"
The California Towhee, Boldly Bland
At Home With Hooded Orioles
Scrub Jays Go Nuts for Peanuts
Northern Mockingbird is a Wary Neighbor
Christmas With the Pelicans
California-Quail Close Encounter
Yosemite Steller's Jay Encounter

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