Research Projects

Current Raptor Banding Projects

  1. Annually collecting data to obtain a relative index to compare and provide insight into raptor population trends and patterns of occurrence, as well as species-related age and sex ratios. This also includes tracking recoveries for mapping movements among age and sex, irruptive and non-irruptive species. Data are submitted annually to the USGS Bird Banding Lab for further understanding of population status, dynamics, and ecology.
  2. Working with Biodiversity Research Institute to collect feather samples from diurnal and nocturnal raptors to detect mercury (Hg) levels within species and Hg level trends of various species from 2 different migration corridors (the Atlantic and Mississippi via Hawk Ridge). Edward Keyel, graduate student at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, Integrated Biological Sciences, will be analyzing these data for his M.S. degree.
  3. Studying cyclical patterns of boreal forest species such as Northern Harrier, Northern Goshawk, Northern Saw-whet Owl, and Boreal Owl, as well as other cyclical species such as Rough-legged Hawk and Snowy Owl.
  4. Working with Dr. Joshua Hull on a molecular genetic investigation of morphological and genetic differentiation among the three subspecies of Merlin (Falco columbarius) and Rough-legged Hawk to better understand evolutionary relationships. The research project will test whether there is a genetic east-west population division in North America and whether the subspecies are genetically distinct.
  5. Working with graduate research assistant, Allie Anderson, from Boise State University to examine population structure and genetic diversity in the American Kestrel.
  6. Working with graduate research assistant, Tom Dixon, at Boise State University to document Red-tailed Hawk tail patterns to examine demographics.
  7. Working with Dr. Keith Bildstein and David Barber, from Hawk Mountain Sanctuary to put GPS satellite transmitters and wing tags on Turkey Vultures as part of the Turkey Vulture Migration Project.
  8. Working with Scott Weidensaul & David F. Brinker, from Project Owlnet, and Norman Smith from Massachusetts Audubon to band and put on GPS-GSM transmitters as part of Project Snowstorm to document movements of Snowy Owls.
  9. Working with Canosia College in New York to collect flat flies. The project involves identification and classification of flat flies to characterize them by species. This is year 3 of the project for HRBO.
  10. Continuing research on Northern Hawk Owls wintering in Northern Minnesota to obtain age ratios during irruptive and non-irruptive years, assess health, examine molt patterns, and movement.
  11. Documenting plumage and molt variation and abnormalities for further research.

Current Passerine Banding Projects

  1. Annually obtaining a relative index to compare and look at long-term trends in passerine numbers and other biological information. Data are submitted annually to the USGS Bird Banding Lab for further understanding of population status, dynamics, and ecology.
  2. Working with graduate student John Michael Maddux from the University of Illinois to collect fecal specimens on insectivores (especially flycatchers and thrushes). The study is designed to assess for bumblebee predation by analyzing fecal samples for bee DNA. We are one of the participating banding groups collecting data for the study. This will be year 1 of the study.
  3. Working with Canosia College in New York to collect flat flies. The project involves identification and classification of flat flies to characterize them by species. This is year 3 of the project for HRBO.
  4. Establishing a MAPS (Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship) Station as part of The Institute for Bird Populations program to analyze banding data to determine critical information relating to the ecology, conservation, and management of North American landbird populations, and the factors responsible for changes in their populations. We have been refining the site layout for a MAPS project at Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve and have set a goal to begin Summer 2015.
  5. Assessing the feasibility of getting feather samples on selected passerine species of interest in our area, which may contribute to the elevated Mercury levels we have observed in raptors (refer to project 2 listed in Hawk Ridge Raptor Banding Research). The scientific merits and feasibility will be reviewed at upcoming research committee meetings.

Western Great Lakes Owl Monitoring

Growing concern about changes in the distribution, population status, and habitat loss for many species of northern forest owls has lead several of Minnesota and Wisconsin’s natural resource organizations to develop plans for an Owl Monitoring project. Currently, populations of forest owls are poorly monitored by existing bird surveys, such as the Breeding Bird Survey and Christmas Bird Counts. The Owl Monitoring project will fill this gap with a new volunteer-based owl survey to be conducted in early to late April each year.  Read More

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