A bird within the hand…


While Cedar City is gearing up for its tourist season, which normally begins when school lets out, several aviators have already been passing through the Festival City.

On Saturday, several state and federal agencies banded together to host the International Migratory Bird Day on the Canyon Park with educational events for kids, and people young at heart.

The youngsters were crowded around Keith Day, wildlife biologist for the Utah Division of Natural Resources, and his co-workers, as they trapped some smaller migratory birds in effective nets, very like invisible volleyball nets.

The team then recorded the birds’ health information, tagged them with bands and posed for selfies before releasing the birds back into the wild with the assistance of a baby volunteer.

A bird hangs in a net at Canyon Park in Cedar City during Migratory Bird Day, Saturday, May 14, 2016.

Those that braved the early morning chill were lucky enough to identify a hooded warbler, a bird that typically migrates the American continent on the East Coast, Day said.

“Most of those birds fly from South America through Mexico and up into Canada while traveling through Cedar City,” he said. “Birds just like the Wilson’s Warbler that we caught are common to the Utah area, however the hooded warbler is what we’d call accidental. Their real range is generally within the plains and eastern a part of the nation.”

Day was also surprised to catch a Lincoln’s sparrow, which is understood in higher elevations in Utah.

“I’m sure loads of folks within the birding community will probably be out here within the park looking for the hooded warbler and Lincoln’s sparrow after they examine this,” he said.

People take photos of a bird at Canyon Park in Cedar City during Migratory Bird Day, Saturday, May 14, 2016.

Very like a family who has traveled to Salt Lake City quite a few times — they stop at the identical rest stops and fall into a well-recognized routine — these birds often do the identical,” Day said.

“What’s interesting is, through the fall migration, the birds will up and leave,” he said. “We’ll track a bird leaving northern Montana, and it’ll be in Mexico in three days.”

The trip back north is usually stuffed with sightseeing and leisure, or so the biologists suspect.

“On the way in which back north, a bird will stop in Phoenix and possibly grab a micro-brew, sightsee along the way in which, make a stop in Cedar City to catch a Shakespeare play,” Day said. “Now we have been tracking white pelicans, and there may be one who has been to Utah, then Idaho, then right down to Nevada — he’s back in Idaho now. They’re everywhere.”

Day said the oldest known bald eagle in captivity lived to be over 70 years old.

But a bird in captivity isn’t stressed with harsh conditions.

“The oldest wild golden eagle that we all know of was 33 years old,” he said. “Unfortunately, she was hit by a automotive about 30 miles from where we banded her. Who knows how long she would have lived if not for that automotive.”

A bird hangs in a net at Canyon Park in Cedar City during Migratory Bird Day, Saturday, May 14, 2016.

For the smaller birds, just like the ones being netted on the park, Day said the oldest he has ever tagged was a 13-year-old yellow warbler.

“Most of those little birds can live 5 to eight years on average,” he said.

The age can only be confirmed if the bird is recaptured and the knowledge from the tag is run through the system, which shouldn’t be as unusual as one would think.

“Now we have upwards of a 20 percent recapture rate,” he said.

Nick Bossenbroek of the National Parks Service gave a presentation on the revival efforts of the California condor.

In 1987, there have been only 22 California condors alive on the planet, and all in captivity.

“There at the moment are between 400-500 California condors within the wild now,” Bossenbroek said. “There’s currently a latest nesting pair in Zion. In the event that they are successful with an offspring it’ll be the primary fledgling that was born in Utah in quite a while.”

The important thing to events like these is education, said Bevan McCormick, also with the NPS.

“Education is one of the vital vital things we do,” she said. “We’re teaching the subsequent generation — because all of the research we do and all the things we learn will probably be passed on to future generations through them.”

And so the saying goes — a bird within the hand is value two within the bush.

Follow reporter Haven Scott, @HavenWScott. Call him at 435-865-4522.

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