Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Bird banding at Moruya

Last weekend several of us from Canberra went down to Moruya to catch and band birds in a patch of forest. This was to individually mark birds with colour bands so that Michael and Sarah Guppy can follow the breeding biology and habitat use by a range of passerines. The bird above is a Red-browed Finch.

Micheal and Sarah have been studying these birds for several years, and it is all done on their own land so access is easy and the whole project is very well organised. We quickly set up a base station in the forest and started catching birds.

One of the more abundant and studied species is the Superb Fairy-wren, a male is shown here being delicately measured.

Another study species is the Brown Thornbill - the bird shown here clearly shows how readily the birds can be individually identified by the unique combination of colour rings which each bird is given.

We caught 146 birds altogether of numerous species, and we had two Olive-backed Orioles in one net. The sexes are very similar, but can be distinguished. The male, here on the left, has slightly more green about his throat as can be seen in these photos.

This spectacular bird with a bald head and splendid Elizabethan ruff is a Noisy Friarbird. They mostly forage high in the canopy so it was unusual to catch one. Although these features are readily seen in the field, when in the hand they can be studied more closely. Why do they have a bald head? They are members of the honeyeater family, so this could perhaps help keep their plumage clean of sticky nectar? And look how they have retained eyebrows - a sensible adaptation to keep the rain out of their eyes? What is the purpose of that horn on top of the bill? And when did you last see a birds ears so clearly? Great birds.

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