Volunteers track songbirds along Boise River to study migration, breeding

Posted at 3:04 PM, Jul 31, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-31 17:04:08-04

BOISE — Just off Highway 21 by the Boise River, volunteers are tracking migration patterns, breeding, and life cycles of different bird species.

“Usually they take off by themselves, you just hold your hand out, and they fly,” said 11-year-old volunteer Evan Sweet.

Dozens of songbirds are being banded, like yellow warblers and red-winged blackbirds, but the real star of the show is 14-year-old Arlo Thomas.

“Every bird is different, just like every person,” said Thomas.

Arlo’s been volunteering with the Intermountain Bird Observatory since he was ten years old and he’s fascinated by the data.

“Some birds, like the yellow warbler, will migrate all the way down to Mexico, and if they catch it down in Mexico, and catch a bird that we caught here down in Mexico, and enter it in, and then it comes back up here, then we know it successfully migrated down to Mexico and back up here,” said Thomas.

He helps track the data every time a bird is banded.

“You have the band number which is like the social security number for each bird,” said Thomas.

The volunteers are gathering the birds at the ten different nets set up around the river.

“Red-winged blackbirds usually like to hang around marshes, and they have very strong feet and beaks so they can hang sideways,” said Thomas.

At this time of year, the songbirds are just finishing up their breeding season, so the team is analyzing the data to see how many adult and baby birds there are this year to get an idea of productivity and the nesting season.

“We have certain birds that are declining, like the curlews, and birds play a really big role,” said Thomas.

July 31st is the last day of breeding season monitoring, so they’re compiling all the summer data to see how the nesting season and tracking shaped up. Six on your side plans to check back in when banding picks back up around September or October.