Thousands of birds tagged, tracked at Lucky Peak

Credit: Theresam Palmgren / KTVB

Thousands of birds tagged, tracked at Lucky Peak


by Karen Zatkulak

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Posted on August 1, 2013 at 5:21 PM

BOISE -- Thousands of birds are being tagged and tracked at Idaho's Bird Observatory at Lucky Peak.

It's the twentieth season for this one-of-a kind observatory in the Gem State.

For several months each year, starting in mid-July, about a dozen people work to band each bird migrating through our area.

Greg Kaltenecker is the director of the observatory, and has been tracking wildlife at the observatory for 20 years.

"This particular spot is a stopover site, so it's where birds stop and fuel up," Kaltnecker told KTVB. "They increase their body condition; they gain a little weight; they put on a little fat before they make their next leg of their journey."

Kaltnecker says that's important, since the birds' health reflects the health of our environment.

"Migratory birds especially are good indicators of overall environmental health," Kaltnecker said. "They represent habitats both in their breeding range, through their migration, and the winter range as well."

In July, about a hundred songbirds are caught and banded with an identifying number every day. In September, the observatory will also track raptors and owls.

Kaltenecker says in the beginning of the migratory season, they see about twenty species each day.

The birds are caught in what's called a mist net, and fall into a pocket.

The number on each bird's band helps observatories all over the world track each bird's journey.

Kaltenecker explains that this observatory attracts thousand of birds each season, because it's a stopover spot, between the Rocky Mountains and the desert.

Now, he says the location is a popular education tool for kids, like Johnny Anderson, who got to release one of the birds when KTVB visited the site.

"That it gives people a chance to look at birds close up, when regularly birds fly away in nature because you don't have a chance to really look at them," said Anderson.

This year the program lost its federal funding because of the across the board budget cuts known as the sequester. Now, it relies almost completely on the public's donations.

You can get more information here.