Field Notes From Borneo

Black-and-red broadbill

Teaching Banding at Danau Girang Field Centre by Suzanne Tomassi, PSBO Vice President 

Every year or so, I head off to another continent to participate in research or teaching with bird species I don’t get to study here – birds of lineages often entirely unrelated to what we encounter in the US.  I can always count on a great learning experience. In the tropics in particular, there are still so many questions to answer: with little variance in photoperiod, what triggers reproduction?  When seasons are not clearly defined and resources do not fluctuate in the regular patterns they do in temperate climates, which species migrate and why? When reproductive and migration energetic “expenses” are not on a strictly defined cycle, where does molt fit in?

This year I headed to Malaysian Borneo to seek out research opportunities for the future.  I was very lucky to be able to assist with instructing the misting netting and “ringing” component of a tropical biodiversity field course out of Cardiff University.  The University runs the Danau Girang Field Centre in the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary on the river of the same name.  The river is home to a magnificent and rich avian community, including broadbills, pittas, hornbills, kingfishers, and countless other species, along with orangutans, proboscis monkeys, pygmy elephants, clouded leopards, crocodiles, and so many other fascinating critters.

During the course, I taught university students how to mist net, ring and measure birds, and collect vital rate data; later, I offered guidance to the students as they conducted their own short studies, including one investigating whether a relationship exists between birds’ eye size and when they begin singing in the morning.  Following the course, I traveled to the Danum Valley Conservation Area and scoped potential study sites around Danum Valley Field Centre.

I’ve included a handful of my favorite photos from the trip. Enjoy them, and please drop me an email if you’re interested in visiting Sabah or learning more about the area.


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