The University of Montana Bird Ecology Lab monitors songbird populations during the breeding season and fall migration. In both seasons, songbirds are monitored in three sites across MPG Ranch which differ in habitat and elevation. They erect mist-nets, which resemble a volleyball net with finer mesh, in strategic places to capture passing birds. Once a bird is captured, they take various morphological measurements, record reproductive condition during the breeding season, and attach a leg band imprinted with a unique identification number. Leg band data is reported to a central location, the USGS Bird Banding Laboratory, if the bird is recaptured and reported, we can gain insight into where it has traveled and it’s condition upon capture. Monitoring during the breeding season gives valuable insight into habitat function; habitat suitable to breeding will yield a greater number of birds in reproductive condition. Fall songbird monitor will contribute to understanding migration ecology of birds moving through western Montana, and in combination with other monitoring programs, the Northern Rockies.
We seek to understand how birds use the habitats available and how that will change as we work to create more diverse plant communities. We also host researchers that document migrations of raptors and songbirds across MPG.
In this section of the research pages, you will find links to reports and updates from all the researchers involved with avian ecology, posted chronologically. The links will show you more in-depth reports on our findings. The three main projects covered here are:
Songbird Counts- A grid of sampling points covers MPG with 560 points. We visit each point 3 times a year, once in winter and twice during the songbird breeding season. We record, by ear or by sight, all the birds near that point for 10 minutes.
Songbird Banding- The University of Montana Bird Ecology Lab, UMBEL, runs several trapping stations at MPG as part of their regional songbird monitoring program. UMBEL sets up very fine nets that are nearly invisible to birds in brushy habitats. Songbirds fly into the nets and become entangled. The researchers take the birds from the nets and affix a numbered band to their leg before releasing them.
Raptor Research- The Raptor View Research Institute monitors raptor populations on MPG and counts raptors that migrate past MPG in the spring and fall. Raptor View researchers have placed transmitters on osprey and golden eagles that use the Bitterroot Valley.
07-10-18 Umbel Songbird Banding
Tree Swallow Breeding Season: Observations from the Field