Faculty Member Publishes Breakthrough Research on Bird Migration
Daniel Baldassarre, a SUNY Oswego biological science faculty member, recently published research that found the phainopepla is only the third kind of bird with a particular and peculiar migration pattern: Phainopepla nest in one area, migrate and then nest again.
Phainopepla—a long and slender songbird with dark feathers, shaggy crest and red eyes—can be seen in southwestern United States. Scientists had known that populations of phainopepla breed in the desert in spring and in the woodlands in the summer, but that these were the same birds following an unusual migration pattern had never been proven before Baldassarre’s work.
“What I contributed was new data collection by trying to directly track the birds,” Baldassarre said. This involved capturing them, then marking and equipping them with a small GPS tracker that weighs only a gram. The tracking data was only available by collecting and downloading the information, so he would have to catch what he hoped were returning birds and retrieve details on their travels.
“Seeing the GPS tracks for the first time was amazing, but the biggest thrill for me was re-sighting the first tagged bird that returned to the capture site,” Baldassarre said. “We were a bit unsure how likely they were to come back to the same spot, so to see that a tagged bird had returned was an exhilarating moment.”
Published in The Auk: Ornithological Advances—a peer-reviewed, international journal of ornithology published by the American Ornithological Society—the research was picked up by several scientific media outlets, including that of the National Audubon Society.
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