3 years and 15,000km later—just your average Nelson’s sparrow

By: Kate Ruskin @UMaine

Here at SHARP, we’re working on putting together the data from 2011-2014 for various analyses.  UConn PhD student Alyssa Borowske has been collecting information on birds that were captured both in the breeding grounds in the summer and on the wintering grounds in the southeast U.S. (see her earlier blog post here).

One of those birds was captured in Maine, so I decide to look into his story.  2511-27220 is a male Nelson’s sparrow who was first captured and banded in Scarborough Marsh in Maine (just south of Portland) in 2011.

Looking ‘SHARP’ on his first capture in Maine.  Photo credit: SHARP.

Looking ‘SHARP’ on his first capture in Maine. Photo credit: SHARP.

Then, he was captured by Alyssa in Florida in the following February.  If he stuck to the coast, that’s a minimum of about 2500 kilometers away from his breeding site in Maine!

2511-27220 was captured  in February 2012 at Timucuan Ecological and Historical Reserve outside of Jacksonville, FL.  Photo credit:  Google Maps

2511-27220 was captured in February 2012 at Timucuan Ecological and Historical Reserve outside of Jacksonville, FL. Photo credit: Google Maps

Saltmarsh in Timucuan Ecological and Historical Reserve.  Photo credit: National Park Service

Saltmarsh in Timucuan Ecological and Historical Reserve. Photo credit: National Park Service

Checking back through our capture records, we didn’t see 2511-27220 on the breeding grounds in Maine in the summer of 2012.  If we had known about his February recapture, we would have worried that he didn’t survive spring migration.

We did capture him at the breeding grounds in Maine in both 2013 and 2014, however!  It’s heartening to know he’s survived probably a minimum of 15,000 km of migration since we first captured him in 2011 (assuming he returns to approximately the same wintering grounds each year, which we don’t know but no matter what, it’s a lot of flying for a little bird)!

I think one of the most interesting things about 2511-27220 is that looking back through all his captures, he seems totally unremarkable.  We recorded no notes about him during any of his summer captures.  It’s a good reminder that each of these birds we capture has a story, and usually a long one, but we rarely have the luxury of knowing it.

2511-27220 still looking SHARP, 3 years and perhaps 15,000 km later in June 2014 on the breeding grounds in Maine.  Photo credit: SHARP.

2511-27220 still looking SHARP, 3 years and perhaps 15,000 km later in June 2014 on the breeding grounds in Maine. Photo credit: SHARP.

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