Studying Golden-crowned Sparrow Migration

April 23, 2019

It was a busy winter getting all the tags out for my migration study on Golden-crowned sparrows. This work is part of my research on songbird migratory patterns and the threats they face along their routes. The goal of the project is to pinpoint habitat they use along their migration, whether birds share the same migration paths, and if the populations show strong or weak connectivity to certain breeding grounds. This type of data is exciting for these small birds, as tracking with accurate GPS tags is a relatively new practice. In the past, researchers have had to rely on band returns or geolocator tags which have a large locational error associated with them. 


With the help of my collaborators at Point Blue Conservation Science we deployed all 35 tags! 17 of these were deployed at the coastal California site and 18 at the inland California site.

 A beautiful Golden-crowned sparrow equipped with a

GPS tag. You can see the antenna on its back.


This winter we had record rainfall in California. This is great for droughts, but it also meant a lot of rescheduling for field work. We don't trap the birds in the rain because they would get too cold and wet. Yet despite all that rain, tagging was successful. Now, thankfully it's spring! This means that the birds will all be leaving soon to head north.


I expect that most of the birds will begin their travels north around mid-April. The first GPS location is set to record on April 19th. The tags will collect points throughout the migration to breeding grounds, on the breeding grounds, and then throughout the migration back to the wintering grounds here in California. Once back here in the fall, the exciting work of beginning to recapture them will begin!


None of this would have been possible without the help of the bird experts at Point Blue Conservation Science (Diana Humple and Renée Cormier pictured here), who trained me in the proper harness placement on these small birds.




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