Wilder, The Real McCoy Contributor
you are like many Wisconsin residents, you enjoy spending time
outdoors. You may like to camp, hunt, hike, or simply sit on your
front porch and listen to the birds. The woods and meadows now are
alive with the sounds of male songbirds, trying to attract a mate by
singing loudly from a perch within their territories.
Researcher Christina Rockwell
carefully removes a gray catbird from a mist net at Fort McCoy. (Photo
by Eric Wood)
you are an avid birder, you likely can identify only a handful of
birds by their song.
so for Eric Wood, a University of Wisconsin-Madison student, who is
working on his doctorate degree. Wood can identify virtually every
bird that resides on Fort McCoy just by hearing its distant and
distinct call. Wood and his field crew have been roaming McCoy’s
forests and grasslands for three consecutive summers conducting bird
research is funded by the Strategic Environmental Research and
Development Program (SERDP). SERDP is the Department of Defense (DoD)
environmental and technology program that conducts research to support
the long-term sustainability of DoD’s training and testing ranges.
lands are home to a large number of rare species, including numerous
bird species. In particular, Fort McCoy is home to grassland- and
savanna-dependent bird species including: grasshopper sparrows,
redheaded woodpeckers, upland sandpipers, horned larks, dickcissels,
field sparrows, lark sparrows, and orchard orioles.
Eric Wood, a University of
Wisconsin-Madison student, who is working on his doctorate
degree is conducting bird surveys in the forests and grasslands
of Fort McCoy. (Contributed
photo) (An Extra to The Real McCoy Online)
research will provide information that assists Fort McCoy biologists
in managing these species and their habitats while at the same time
allowing the completion of the military mission.
research at Fort McCoy has three main goals: 1) To develop a technique
of predicting bird presence and abundance through air photo and
satellite imagery interpretation; 2) To determine the importance of
flowering oaks as a high-energy food resource for neo-tropical birds
during spring migration; and 3) To determine the importance of savanna
habitat types to birds throughout the breeding season.
reach these goals, Wood and his crew conduct bird surveys at 330
locations throughout Fort McCoy multiple times each spring and summer.
Vegetation data is collected at these locations to characterize the
habitat, giving a picture of what is important for these bird species.
determine the importance of flowering oaks as a food source, birds are
captured to gain information on what they are eating.
capture these birds, finely meshed mist nets are placed in natural
flight corridors. A recording of the target species’ song often is
used to attract birds to the area where they hopefully become
entangled in the net.
the researchers have the bird in hand, they take samples of the
stomach contents along with other biological data. The birds are not
harmed during capture or handling and are released at the capture
(Wilder is the Fort McCoy
Endangered Species Biologist for the Directorate of Public Works.)