Other Projects

Bird Genoscape Project

Genoscape of Wilson’s Warbler

The VIU Bird Banding Project is a contributor to the Bird Genoscape project led by the Center for Tropical Research. Each year, we collect tail feathers from select species of netropical migrants which we capture at the Buttertubs Marsh banding station. The feathers become part of a large collection of feathers and their DNA collected throughout North and Latin America. Researchers with the Bird Genoscape project use molecular genetic markers to characterize the migratory patterns of birds. These genetic markers can be used to build a map of genetic variation across the geographic range of each species (a genoscape), which can be used to trace the breeding origin and wintering ground of birds captured anywhere along their migratory pathway using DNA contained within a single feather. The findings of the project serve as an essential first step towards building effective conservation and management strategies.

Bird-Window Collisions at the VIU Nanaimo Campus (project website)

Undergraduate research project by Kaitlin Ovcharov (2017-2018; poster)
and Caitlynn Bright (2018-2019; poster)

Photograph display of the bird carcasses recovered in 2017-2018.

Windows are one of the most common anthropogenic causes for bird mortality. Birds collide with the glass in an attempt to fly into the apparent habitat that these windows reflect. Bird strikes occur at Vancouver Island University (VIU), but the severity of the issue had not been previously examined. This study aimed to determine if bird-window collisions are severe at VIU by surveying eight buildings for bird strike evidence, including live and dead birds, feathers, and dust marks on the glass. In 2017-2018, at least 120 bird strikes occurred during a 5-month period. Of the 48 dead birds identified, varied thrushes accounted for 50%. Buildings 355 (Arts and Science) and 305 (Library) were identified as the most dangerous to birds. The study continues in 2018-2019 to assess daily and seasonal patterns of window strikes.

Bird Banding at the Salmon River South Conservation Area, Sayward

In May and June 2016, we conducted bird banding at the Salmon River South Conservation Area of The Nature Trust of BC.  Specifically, this project aimed to monitor migrating and breeding birds to assess their use of the habitat as a migratory stopover and breeding site.  View the final data report for this project.

Chestnut-backed Chickadee and RFID Monitoring

Undergraduate research project by Sarah Chalmers (2015-2016) – Poster

Chestnut-backed Chickadee with PIT-tagged leg band on RFID feeder antenna

Radio frequency identification (RFID) technology serves as an affordable tool for the study of passerine behaviour. To determine the daily feeding dynamics of locally common free-living birds, Sarah built bird feeders with RFID readers and banded Chestnut-backed Chickadees (Poecile rufescens) with passive integrated transponder (PIT) tags. Over the course of 27 days, the reader logged over 8,245 unique visits by eleven tagged individuals (n = 11). From this data, she found that tagged chickadees generally began visiting the RFID feeder shortly after sunrise and the mean visitation rate steadily increased throughout the morning, peaking between 11:00 and 15:00. Visitation rate dropped sharply approximately one hour before sunset. Total daily visits to the feeder decreased significantly as mean daily temperature increased. Similarly, total daily visits generally decreased with increasing total daily precipitation, although this relationship was not significant. These data suggest that the birds’ daily energy reserves were being met before sunset and may have been maintained throughout the morning by relying on cached seeds from the previous day.

Black Oystercatcher and Varnish Clam

Undergraduate research project by Emily Hollenberg (2013-2014) – Poster

Hollenberg, E.J.R. and E. Demers. 2017. Black Oystercatcher (Haematopus bachmani) foraging on varnish clams (Nuttallia obscurata) in Nanaimo, British Columbia. British Columbia Birds 27:35–41. [pdf]

Sampling varnish clams with Black Oystercatchers in background

Emily examined whether and to what extent varnish clams (Nuttalia obscurata) represent a significant part of the diet of Black Oystercatchers (Haematopus bachmani) and whether Black Oystercatchers forage selectively on specific size classes of varnish clams. Study sites were established at Piper’s Lagoon and Departure Bay Beach in Nanaimo, British Columbia. Observations of foraging Black Oystercatchers were conducted from October 2013 to February 2014. She found that the varnish clam was an important food source for the Black Oystercatcher. There was no obvious indication of size-selective foraging by Black Oystercatchers.  However, there was a slight difference between the mean size of available (larger) and eaten varnish clams at Piper’s Lagoon, but not at Departure Bay Beach. Black Oystercatchers were also found to feed on varnish clams at a higher rate at Piper’s Lagoon and throughout a broader tide range than at Departure Bay Beach. This research found that Black Oystercatchers appear to exploit the varnish clams and may be able to obtain a substantial part of their daily energy requirements from this invasive species.