Eyes on the Skies (FLWCRNC)

Summary:

Eyes on the Skies shows participants how federal and state agencies manage bird populations in the United States. Participants use bird-banding pliers while learning how Arkansas Game and Fish Commission biologists use various bands and tracking devices to monitor birds. They learn how this data is collected and reported and how citizens may participate.

Grade Level:

4 - 12 (Program can be modified to suit the audience)

Recommended Setting:

Indoor or outdoor classroom

Outdoor Activity:

No

Location:

Forrest L. Wood Crowley’s Ridge Nature Center, Jonesboro

Contact:

Education Program Coordinator, 870-933-6787

Duration:

45 - 60 minutes

Suggested Number of Participants:

25 - 120

Special Conditions:

Must have a minimum of 25 students

Objectives:

  • Recognize that the federal government and state agencies manage bird populations in the United States and sometimes partner together or with other national governments to accomplish common interests.
  • Learn how wildlife biologists use bird bands and tracking devices to monitor species populations and carrying capacity of their habitat.
  • Recognize the important roles that hunters and bird watchers play by reporting useful information to the monitoring agencies.

Key Terms*:

Bird banding laboratory

Flyways

Habitat

Management plan

Migration corridor

Migratory bird

Migratory Bird Treaty Act

Mississippi flyway

Mist net

Neotropical migrant

Ornithologist

Wildlife biologist

*See glossary for definations

Materials:

Banding pliers

Duck feet

Eyes on the Skies PowerPoint presentation

Leg bands

Mist net

PowerPoint of avian fieldwork activities

Satellite transmitters

Stirring straws

Background:

More than 300 species of birds live in Arkansas. Many are year-round residents while others are seasonal migrants. Federal and state agencies are involved in managing birds. The U.S. Geological Survey and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (each a bureau of the Department of Interior) work with state wildlife agencies and other partners to coordinate bird management plans. AGFC wildlife biologists cooperate with this network to collect and share data on species.

Procedure:

  1. Briefly introduce the program. Ask participants how many bird species live in Arkansas. After several answers, tell them that more than 300 reside in the state at some time during the year. Explain the difference between year-round residents and migrants.
  2. Participants will join in a bird management exercise after the PowerPoint presentation. Use the PowerPoint slides to show biologists gathering data from birds. Show the bands and pliers, transmitters and mist net during the presentation so they can see these tools.
  3. Tell participants how AGFC cooperates with federal agencies, conservation groups and citizens to gather data used to manage this large and diverse number of species.
  4. Point out that the bird banding laboratory collects all U.S. data from bird bands, including that collected by state agencies, conservation groups and citizens. Ask participants how an individual might contribute banding information. Hunters can report information from bands on game birds, bird watchers can report information from banded birds they see, etc.
  5. Give each participant two or three stirring straws and small leg bands. Show them how to use the banding pliers to attach a band to a straw. Ask if they can recall how wildlife biologists capture small birds to band. Point out the mist net if they cannot remember.
  6. Distribute the duck feet, leg bands and pliers. Explain that ducks are migratory waterfowl, although some can be year-round residents. Tell participants there are four migratory corridors, or flyways, in North America. Ask if anyone knows which flyway goes through Arkansas. (Mississippi Flyway) Point out that Arkansas is a premier waterfowl hunting destination because of the flyway, and the state regularly harvests the most mallards in the United States. Allow participants to attach the leg bands to the duck feet.
  7. Summarize by reviewing how federal and state governments, conservation groups and concerned citizens partner to manage wild bird populations. Encourage participants to support conservation efforts such as these and to get involved.

Modifications:

  1. Have participants access the bird banding laboratory website at www.pwrc.usgs.gov for the most recent statistics on banded birds. Use to create math lessons.
  2. Develop a question sheet based on information from the bird banding laboratory website and have participants find the answers.
  3. Participants can click the waterfowl link at www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/index to access information about waterfowl that migrate through Arkansas.
  4. Participants can find an explanation of waterfowl management practices and research at www.flyways.us.
  5. Information on avian management procedures, data sheets, etc. is available from the Institute for Bird Populations at www.birdpop.org.
  6. Use the latest AGFC waterfowl survey summary to develop quiz sheets for participants to answer after reading the information.
  7. This program is suitable for many grade levels. Use age-appropriate vocabulary.

Review:

  • What should you do if you see a banded bird or harvest a banded game bird? (Report the information to the bird banding laboratory.)
  • Why is this important? (It provides critical information for management efforts.)
  • Why does it take so many parties to manage migratory birds? (They move across large areas of the continent, and management decisions cannot be made from limited geographical reports.)

 

Resources:

Wilson, Steven N. (1998). Arkansas Wildlife: A History. Fayetteville: The University of Arkansas Press.

Participant Information Sheets:

• Waterfowl Identification in the Central Flyway (USGS)
• What are Duck Stamps? (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
• Waterfowl and Duck Stamp Quiz

Glossary:

Bird Banding Laboratory – a database of North American bird information maintained by the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center of the U.S. Geological Survey

Flyways – distinct migration routes used by waterfowl to move between breeding and wintering areas; four flyways in North America are Atlantic, Central, Mississippi and Pacific

Habitat – an arrangement of food, water, shelter or cover, and space suitable to animals’ needs

Management plan – a scientific method for keeping wildlife and fish populations at optimal levels based on habitat and population surveys

Migration corridor – route followed by wildlife when moving between locations (waterfowl use migration corridors called flyways)

Migratory bird – species of bird that moves between distinct areas (usually for breeding and wintering) during the year

Migratory Bird Treaty Act – 1918 agreement between the United States and Canada (later amended to include Mexico, Japan and Russia) that makes it unlawful to capture or kill any migratory bird; also unlawful to possess any part of a migratory bird, including the feathers, eggs, nests or dead birds

Mississippi flyway – bird migration route that follows the Mississippi River in the United States and the Mackenzie River in Canada; main endpoints include central Canada and the region surrounding the Gulf of Mexico; used by about 40 percent of all migrating waterfowl and shorebirds

Mist net – light-weight, finely threaded mesh net ornithologists use to capture wild birds for banding or other research; can also be used by mammalogists to study bats

Neotropical migrant – any of 361 bird species (such as the Summer Tanager and Blackburnian Warbler) that migrate between wintering grounds in Mexico, Central America and South America to breeding grounds in North America

Ornithologist – scientist who studies birds

Wildlife biologist – scientist who studies and manages wild animals and their habitats