I say it every year, but I can’t believe another MAPS (Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship) season has already come and gone! If you don’t already know, this is a yearly mist-netting and banding program that we run at the Morse Wildlife Preserve in Pierce County. Here in the Pacific Northwest, where spring comes late. we begin banding in Period 4 of 10 standard MAPS periods. MAPS targets breeding birds, so we start late to avoid wintering and migrating birds. MAPS is most useful (and quite unique) in that it is a nationwide effort to monitor vital rates (survival, productivity and recruitment). The great advantage of collecting data as we do for MAPS is that it can be used to determine bird population trends that simple census data cannot: to infer spatial and temporal patterns in survivial rates; to understand the relationships between wintering and breeding populations; to identify the proximate (demographic) causes of population change; to understand migratory patterns; to draw connections between weather and climate factors and populations; and countless other ways to focus future research efforts and guide conservation. As well, we often collaborate with other scientists and research programs and in this way have contributed to studies of avian flu, stable isotope collection for distributional studies, and molt strategy and feather wear research.
We couldn’t band year after year if not for our trained volunteers, who got up at 3:30 AM week after week to help net, measure, and band. Lots of other visitors and volunteers came out to “scribe” for us, take photos, and observe.
Some of the measurements we take and observations we use to age and sex birds are: