Research: Birds

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Nature Center Hours

VINS Nature Center
10am to 4pm Daily

Wild Bird Rehab is Open
Accepting Calls Only
802.359.5000 x212
8am to 4pm

Bird Research at the VINS Nature Center

Our work with avian wildlife in both the rehab and educational settings puts us in the unique position to study wild populations throughout the state. Our experience allows us to create unique projects that increase our understanding of avian species. We freely share our knowledge with anyone who may be interested and collaborate with other organizations in their avian studies. Details of our current projects can be found below.

VINS Research is conducting long term acoustic monitoring at the VINS Nature Center and at Old Pepper Place Nature Reserve. Microphones will be placed to record both nocturnal flight calls of migrating birds as they fly overhead and the dawn chorus of birds as they arrive in spring.

VINS is conducting surveys each spring to create a long term record of breeding birds on our campus. Eighteen plots are located throughout the center where staff monitor birds that are present throughout the breeding season.

Center for Wild Bird Rehabilitation
VINS is banding rehab patients prior to release in an effort to follow patients’ return to the wild. The banding allows us to potentially follow a released bird’s movements and judge the success of treatments in the rehab center.

VINS conducts hawk counts during fall migration at Mount Ascutney State Park in Vermont.

Data will be submitted in near real time to HawkCount:

VINS partnered with the Red-tailed Hawk Project during the winter of 2020 to capture and outfit two Red-tailed Hawks with GPS transmitters.

In the winter of 2021 we partnered with the Red-tailed Hawk Project to outfit five Rough-legged Hawks with GPS transmitters.

These birds will help us better understand how the species are utilizing Vermont in the winter and will contribute to the overall knowledge of their species movements.

American Kestrel Research Project

The VINS Research Team, in collaboration with volunteers, is monitoring a network of American Kestrel nest boxes throughout the Upper Valley of Vermont and New Hampshire. Nest boxes are located on private property and are monitored by landowners or VINS staff. Nestlings from successful nests are banded by VINS staff prior to fledging.

Apply today if you would like to get involved with the project or have a location for a Kestrel nestbox.

Help support our work with American Kestrels by symbolically adopting a wild bird or a nest box. Funds go toward the costs of maintaining and monitoring our extensive nest box network.

American Kestral Research

Center for Wild Bird Rehabilitation

The 2022 Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) outbreak has had an unprecedented effect on wild birds in North America. While songbirds are generally considered to be low risk in regards to infection or being carriers, data is limited about HPAI in songbirds. The Center for Wild Bird Rehabilitation is turning this difficult situation into a unique opportunity to try to learn more about HPAI prevalence in songbirds. Staff have collected swabs from patients accepted during this outbreak for genetic analysis to learn more about whether HPAI is affecting songbirds in the region. 167 samples were taken from doves, woodpeckers, and various songbird species. We are currently completing our reporting and will post our findings soon!

In 2020 VINS conducted a survey of blood parasites affecting Vermont birds. There are three genera of parasites that commonly occur in birds in the Northeast: Plasmodium, Haemoproteus and Leucocytozoon. All are capable of causing morbidity and mortality, and we treat a number of birds for infections with these parasites each year.

The purpose of the study is to help establish the frequency of infections and the species affected in Vermont. All three parasites are spread by insect vectors such as mosquitoes, so climate change is expected to change the range of these parasites as their vector and host species move as well.

Of particular interest is Plasmodium which causes avian malaria, and was first found causing death in Common Loons in the Northeast in 2017. Several additional parasite genera were also found, including Trypanosoma, Microfilaria and Atoxoplasma.

Over 440 samples were collected throughout the study period, and have been analyzed for blood parasites. The study is almost complete and a report will be coming soon. This is the first study in Vermont to look at such a wide variety of birds.

In 2023, Research Staff will continue this project by taking samples from wild caught Broad-winged Hawks to compare with birds brought into rehabilitation.

In coordination with the VINS research team, and Dr. Samuel Byrne of Middlebury college, the Center for Wild Bird Rehabilitation has started collecting feather and blood samples to explore environmental mercury exposure in birds presented to the clinic for care.

VINS is collecting blood samples from loons for genetic testing to look for Plasmodium. This is part of a larger Northeastern loon population monitoring effort involving biologists, researchers, veterinarians and others from organizations including VCE, Tufts, UNH, the Smithsonian Conservation Institute and New Hampshire Loon Preservation Committee (LPC). VINS is also involved in a study specifically focusing on loon mortalities related to avian malaria.

We will also be helping Eric Hanson, the loon biologist from VCE, with performing necropsies and sample collecting on loons that were found deceased in the wild this summer, along with NH LPC. We will also be submitting samples from other species of birds that carry Plasmodium to help look for the specific lineages of parasites that are causing disease in loons.