Saturday, August 17, 2019

Meet the Banded Birds of Marco Island


Photo by Jean Hall

Biologists across the world tag thousands of birds each year with unique leg bands, giving identities to individual birds. Sightings of these banded birds help answer questions about bird movements, lifespans, and survival. In Marco Island, you can find banded birds that live here year-round, and “snowbirds” that only visit for the winter. Here, we share the story of one banded bird found in Marco Island.

Meet Burrowing Owl “YX-RO”

If you’ve been to Residents’ Beach in the last month, you might have noticed burrowing owl Yellow/Metal – Red/Orange (YX-RO) sitting on the boardwalk railing with her mate. These owls are taking shelter under the boardwalk, rather than nesting there – sort of like a scenic vacation home! YX-RO hatched and raised five chicks early this spring, which have all already left their nest burrow as independent young owls. Now that her parenting duties are done for the year, she can relax until next spring when it’s time to nest again.

YX-RO is pictured here with one of the five chicks she raised last year, most of which were banded by researchers from the University of Florida. One of these banded chicks was found nearby Residents’ Beach along Landmark Street, with a mate and a burrow of her own. YX-RO’s daughter nested for the very first time this year and successfully raised two chicks, making YX-RO a grandparent!

Have you seen a banded bird? Send a photo or description to Audubon Florida biologist Adam DiNuovo at adinuovo@audubon.org.

Alli Smith is a current M.S. student at the University of Florida. Alli was introduced to a charming population of urban burrowing owls, and to the passionate volunteers that monitor them under the guidance of Audubon of the Western Everglades (AWE). Current research is looking at burrowing owl space use, population genetics, and nesting site selection.

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