Louisiana Bird Observatory's (LABO) growing network of bird banding stations provides the opportunity to determine the influence of habitat, fragmentation and climate on the survival and population growth of sensitive birds throughout Louisiana. Most recently, we published annual survival estimates of commonly captured birds at our Bluebonnet Swamp site in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and compared results to region wide trends. Over the next few years we will conduct similar analyses at larger landscape scales, taking into account all partner stations throughout the state to identify which habitats are the most ecologically valuable for Louisiana's bird communities.
Through partnerships with Allyson Jackson at Oregon State University and Biodiversity Research Institute, Louisiana Bird Observatory banders collect blood samples from several study species throughout the year to determine the influence of industrial pollution on Louisiana's bird communities. LABO's mercury study is unique because we monitor changes in mercury within the same population, and often the same individual, throughout all phases of the life cycle to determine whether seasonal changes in ecology or behavior influence mercury accumulation. We have begun collecting our second year of blood samples in 2014.
Geolocators, or light-level data-loggers, are attached to migratory birds and subsequently retrieved to determine summer and wintering ground connectivity and detail the routes of long-distance migrations. Geolocators work by periodically recording ambient light-levels that can provide daily estimates of latitude and longitude.
In 2013, LABO began a pilot study focused on Prothonotary Warblers at Bluebonnet Swamp where volunteers built nest boxes (to enhance site fidelity), then captured and attached small geolocators to individual birds. LABO's initial success prompted collaborative expansion of our project throughout the Southeastern United States in partnership with many organizations, including National Audubon Society.
Molt is the cyclical replacement of feathers and constitutes an important phase of the avian life cycle. Differences in molt extent, or how many feathers are replaced, can vary by age and are used to classify young and old individuals. LABO routinely documents novel molt patterns in captured birds providing insights into the natural history of species such as Indigo Bunting and Eastern Towhee. In addition to publishing novel molt patterns, LABO curates an online photo database of age-related molt patterns of many southern birds.
Led by Dr. Scott Duke-Sylvester's lab at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, this collaboration began in 2013 to assess patterns of infection and spread in avian diseases, such as avian malaria and avian pox virus. Research on the phylogenetic structure of these diseases in space in time will help develop an understanding of how these diseases spread throughout Louisiana's bird communities.
Each year LABO provides quality environmental outreach to hundreds of visitors at our banding stations throughout Louisiana. In partnership with the Parks and Recreation Comission of the Parish of East Baton Rouge (BREC), we also offer classes on ecology and avian natural history during BREC's Summer Camp at Bluebonnet Swamp. Another important component of LABO's outreach is bird banding training. Each year, undergraduate and graduate students from Louisiana State University, University of Louisiana at Lafayette, and Tulane University volunteer at banding stations to learn the latest techniques in field ornithology.