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Bird bling with a purpose
by Jason Collins
Mar 20, 2010 | 729 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Bron Rorex, a licensed bird bander, holds a green jay to show the small band that is now attached to its leg. The band contains a unique identification number so that if captured or found again, biologists can gather information about its habitats and life. The banding project occurred at the Barnhart Q-5 Ranch in Goliad County near the Bee County line.
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Brent Ortego held the woodpecker gently between his fingers.

Make no mistake. The bird wasn’t happy — obvious by its high pitched, distressed squeal.

But it wasn’t in any danger. In fact, Ortego was helping it and its species.

Ortego, a biologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife, had gotten together naturalists, licensed bird banders and nature lovers to catch and band as many native birds on the Barnhart Q-5 Ranch as they could for two days.

His goal Sunday was to see how wildlife management was helping songbirds.

“Parks and Wildlife has made recommendations to this family on how to improve the area for wildlife,” Ortego said. “Most of the recommendations were geared to game birds and animals.”

These recommendations to Claire and John Barnhart included cutting mosaic patterns in the brush to allow foraging for the deer, turkeys and other critters on the Goliad County ranch.

“This is classic for quail and deer management,” he said. “Is this classic for song birds though? We really don’t know.”

His goal is see what and how many birds are flying in the area.

“I am trying to see the species diversity,” Ortego said that morning. “At the moment, we don’t have a lot of gear out. When another master bander shows up, he is going to put his gear out.”

Within the first five hours that Sunday, the nets had snagged about 100 birds.

“So far I am only trying to sample where the feeders are,” he said. “We have been catching a lot of birds that go to corn and sunflowers.

“As the day progresses, we are setting up more in the native habitats.”

This is just the first stop for his research. He and other banders will head to the coast, prairies and forested areas to band more birds.

Each bird caught will receive a small metal band around its leg. Each band contains a number that can be used to track the bird if found later.

“The bander records the species, age and sex of the bird,” he said. “Each one of these bands is uniquely numbered like a social security number.”

Anyone finding a banded bird is asked to call 1-800-327-2263 to report the location and band number.

That information is then compiled and researchers are able to determine how long the bird survived in the wild and if it had migrated far from where it was originally banded.

More information about banding is available online at www.pwrc.usgs.gov/bbl.
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